Will the Biden administration use federal funds as a club to convince employers to force employees to get vaccinated? The White House is not denying that the plan is under discussion, but they say no final decision has been reached.
Forcing companies to do the government’s dirty work on a vaccine mandate is underhanded, but it’s Biden’s only choice if he thinks everyone needs to get vaccinated. A vaccine mandate has no chance of being successful.
There’s a question of who will be targeted by the government. Currently, the discussions are about targeting large institutions like senior care centers and universities, but no industry is safe.
There is a particular focus in the discussions on whether restrictions on Medicare dollars or other federal funds could be used to persuade nursing homes and other long-term-care facilities to require employees to be vaccinated, according to one of the people familiar with the talks.
If the Biden administration goes forward with the plans, it would amount to a dramatic escalation in the effort to vaccinate the roughly 90 million Americans who are eligible for shots but who have refused or have been unable to get them.
The discussion at the highest level of government also signals a new phase of potential federal intervention as the White House struggles to control the delta variant of the virus, which is spreading more rapidly than even some of the more dire models predicted.
A mandate is a mandate whether the government or a private company imposes it. The Biden administration is risking setting up a permanent wall that would separate Americans based on whether they’ve been jabbed or not.
Leave it to Ezekiel Emanuel, brother of former Obama aide Rahm Emanuel, to propose the most radical solutions.
“If you look through history, there are presidents who — even in the absence of legal authority — influence people, you might say,” said Ezekiel Emanuel, a bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania who recently organized a joint statement from nearly 60 medical groups urging every health facility to require workers to get vaccinated. “We keep referring to this covid thing like it’s an emergency and then we don’t behave like it’s a wartime emergency.”
Biden came into office pledging a “full-scale wartime effort” to beat back the coronavirus. He frequently compares the number of Americans who have died during the pandemic to the country’s war dead, contrasting the more than 615,000 covid deaths over the past 18 months to the number of U.S. soldiers who died in foreign wars over the past century.
Emanuel once said he hoped to die at age 75 because he didn’t want to use health care resources and didn’t think anyone else should.
Even the White House doesn’t think Biden has the constitutional authority to impose a nationwide vaccine mandate. But then, no one thought Biden had the constitutional authority to renew the CDC eviction moratorium.
Related: What Joe Biden Caving on the Eviction Moratorium Really Means
“Will we look at other sectors of the federal government and make determinations about where other, you know, potential mandates or self-attestation programs might be effective? Yes,” said an administration official to the Washington Post. “The president has been very clear that he is going to use every tool available to him, ranging from the bully pulpit to various authorities that he has as president to work to try to get as many people in this country vaccinated as possible.”
What makes a vaccine mandate so futile is that it would only convince about three percent of the skeptics to get jabbed, according to a survey from the Kaiser Foundation. Biden might do better with a stronger effort at educating the public about the vaccines’ advantages. It would also help if the FDA would give final approval for the use of vaccines. Right now, the vaccines are approved for emergency use only. Large-scale human testing is continuing and may lead to full FDA approval sometime in the fall.
If the White House thinks they can scare people into getting vaccinated by telling them there will be a mandate, they better go back to the drawing board.