(NewsNation Now) — President Joe Biden addressed the country’s coronavirus response Thursday, where he touched on the debate over his sweeping vaccination mandates and the potential approval of booster shots.
The Biden administration’s vaccination mandate would make employers with 100 or more workers require coronavirus vaccinations or institute weekly virus testing.. Some employers nationwide have already instituted their own mandates.
“Every day, we see more businesses implement vaccination requirements and the mounting data shows that they work,” Biden said. “Businesses and organizations are implementing requirements are seeing their vaccination rates rise by an average of 20% or more to well over 90% the number of employees vaccinated.”
But the mandate prompted swift backlash from governors and employers alike. Earlier this week, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order stopping any entity in the state, including private business, from requiring COVID-19 vaccinations of their employees or consumers.
“Let’s be clear; vaccine mandates should not be another issue that divides us. That’s why we continue to battle the misinformation that’s out there, Biden said. “And companies and communities are stepping up as well to combat this misinformation.”
Biden had ruled out such requirements before taking office in January but said he feels forced into implementing them as a large part of the public has refused to be inoculated and has jeopardized the lives of others and the nation’s economic recovery.
More than 100 million Americans will be subject to vaccine requirements ordered by Biden in the coming weeks. And his administration is encouraging employers to take additional steps voluntarily that would push vaccines on people or subject them to onerous testing requirements.
“There is no other way to beat the pandemic than to get the vast majority of the American people vaccinated,” Biden said in an event promoting the mandates last week. “While I didn’t race to do it right away, that’s why I’ve had to move toward requirements.”
This comes as the Food and Drug Administration is set to meet this week to discuss whether an extra dose of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 should be dispensed and, if so, who should get them and when.
In August, the White House and its top medical advisers announced sweeping plans to offer boosters to nearly all adults, citing signs of waning protection and the then-surging delta variant. But they were rebuffed by many experts who said little data shows whether such broad use would stop breakthrough infections or curb the overall trajectory of cases.
Last month, the FDA authorized booster shots of Pfizer’s vaccine for older Americans and other groups with heightened vulnerability to COVID-19. It’s part of a sweeping effort by the Biden administration to shore up protection amid the delta variant and potential waning vaccine immunity.
Adding to the complexity is whether it’s OK to use a different brand booster than someone’s initial shots. However, preliminary results of a U.S. government study suggest that mixing and matching boosters will work at least as well — and maybe far better for J&J recipients. Those people had a stronger immune response if they got either a Moderna or Pfizer shot as their booster than if they received another dose of the J&J vaccine, according to results posted online Wednesday. Mix-and-match is also up for discussion by the FDA panel this week.
While the FDA and CDC ultimately scaled back the use of Pfizer boosters, Biden administration officials, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, have suggested that extra shots will eventually be recommended for most Americans. The FDA and CDC also have to rule on if it is safe for younger children to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Biden said it’s also essential to continue to keep school and schools safe, as 96% of school districts returned to in-person learning this fall. He encourages parents to get their children 12 and under
“I know parents out there are anxiously waiting for a vaccine for children ages 5-11, the good news is the FDA and outside experts with the CDC are set to make a determination as to whether the vaccine will be authorized for that age range in the next few weeks,” Biden said. “If authorized we are ready. We’ve purchased enough vaccines for all children between the ages of 5 and 11 in the United States.