Experts say expect more vaccine mandates in near future – National & International News – TUE 20Jul2021

Vaccine mandates by businesses, hospitals, schools and government agencies are rare now, but don't expect it to stay that way.

Experts believe more vaccine mandates will follow full FDA approval. Israel PM warns of “severe consequences” over Ben & Jerry’s ban.

NATIONAL NEWS

More vaccine mandates possible after full FDA approval

Former White House health advisers are predicting that the US will see more COVID vaccination mandates once the FDA grants full approval to one or more vaccines. Right now, the three shots available in the US only have emergency approval. That could change by January 2022 or even sooner. 

Full FDA approval would remove significant legal and public relations hurdles for public and private institutions that have considered mandating vaccines but have so far been reluctant to do so. 

Educational and healthcare institutions and businesses

Many institutions have long required immunizations for other diseases. For example, many colleges and universities have required students to get certain vaccinations for decades. Already, hundreds of colleges have issued COVID vaccination requirements for students before returning to campus.

There has been considerable public backlash over mandates issued so far by educational institutions, healthcare facilities and employers. Some groups have even filed lawsuits challenging the legality of the mandates. But even without full FDA approval, courts have largely rejected these challenges. Last month, a judge in Texas dismissed a suit brought by employees of the Houston Methodist hospital system. Just this week, a federal judge similarly ruled in favor of Indiana University’s vaccine requirement.

Other industries, including some airlines, are requiring vaccines for new hires, but not yet for current employees. Some financial firms have also required vaccines for workers before they return to the office. It’s unclear what will happen with employees who refuse to get the jab. One possible compromise is requiring unvaccinated employees to be tested several times a week. 

With some notable exceptions, healthcare providers, including hospitals and nursing homes, have been hesitant to require vaccinations for employees. That may change with full FDA approval.

Federal, state and local government

At the government level, issuing mandates is much trickier. The Biden administration has so far shied away from vaccine mandates for government agencies. But Andy Slavitt, Biden’s former COVID response coordinator, said this may change after full FDA approval and mentioned several possible starting points the White House could choose. These include possible mandates for federal employees, members of the military, and healthcare workers at Veterans Affairs facilities. This could also extend to other federal workers, like TSA employees, whose jobs require close contact with the public.

Slavitt says that after full FDA approval, “I think every government agency ought to rethink what’s appropriate”. He points out that many Americans have adopted the attitude, “‘I’m not going to take it, unless it’s required’”.

Biden’s authority to require vaccines beyond the federal workforce may be fairly limited. At least 20 state legislatures have already passed laws or are considering bills to ban businesses and state and local governments from issuing mandates or placing any restrictions on unvaccinated people. These laws would also prevent vaccine mandates by local governments, which historically have had the strongest influence on public health matters.

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INTERNATIONAL NEWS

Israel PM warns of “severe consequences” over Ben & Jerry’s ban

Israelis living in the occupied West Bank will soon be out of luck if they’re hankering for a tub of Chunky Monkey. Following a pro-Palestinian pressure campaign, Vermont-based ice cream giant Ben & Jerry’s has announced it will stop selling its products in the occupied West Bank. Israel’s government continues to build Jewish settlements in Palestinian territories in the West Bank, although the international community considers the settlements illegal.

Ben & Jerry’s has long taken strong stances on ethical issues. The company says that continuing to do business in the occupied West Bank is “inconsistent with our values”.

The announcement garnered a strong and angry reaction from Israel’s right-wing Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. Bennett said the decision was “morally wrong” and a “clearly anti-Israel step”. Bennett promised “aggressive” action and “severe consequences” for B&J’s parent company Unilever in response.

Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid went further, calling B&J’s decision “a disgraceful capitulation to antisemitism”. Proponents of Israeli policies that marginalize Palestinians frequently characterize any criticism of these policies as “antisemitic”.

Under this same logic, many US states have passed laws to punish any business or institution that supports the anti-apartheid Boycott-Divest-Sanction (BDS) movement. Lapid has urged any US states that have such laws to take action against Ben & Jerry’s. Mississippi passed such a law in 2019, so stock up on Cherry Garcia and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough while you can!

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