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Biden Gives January 4 Deadline to Employers for New OSHA Vaccine Requirements

Workers who don’t want to get vaccinated will have to submit to weekly testing at their own expense.

People line up to get a COVID-19 vaccination shot at Grand Central Terminal on May 12, 2021, in New York City.

On Thursday, the Biden administration announced a formal deadline for vaccine rules applying to companies with 100 or more workers on their payrolls.

The rule, which was originally announced by President Joe Biden in September, compels employers with 100 or more workers to require their employees to get fully vaccinated or present a negative COVID test each week. Workers in the health care industry must also be vaccinated if their employers receive federal funding through Medicare or Medicaid.

The deadline for the rule, which will be enforced through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), is January 4. By that point, workers must be fully vaccinated, completing a two-dose regimen of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. If they are not vaccinated, employees must provide test results to their employers at their own expense, barring any union agreements between employees and companies. Workers who choose to remain unvaccinated will also be required to wear masks at work.

The rule stipulates that companies must provide paid time off for workers who are unvaccinated to get their shots, if they choose to do so. Any time off needed to recover from side effects of the vaccine must also be paid.

The rule is expected to affect more than 100 million workers, or roughly two-thirds of the American workforce — 84 million workers at private companies, and 17 million workers in health care fields.

Employers face $14,000 in penalty fines for every employee who is not in compliance with the OSHA regulation.

In a statement regarding the new rule, Biden said that the action was necessary because not enough Americans were getting vaccinated on their own.

“Vaccination is the single best pathway out of this pandemic,” Biden said in a statement. “And while I would have much preferred that requirements not become necessary, too many people remain unvaccinated for us to get out of this pandemic for good.”

Biden also noted that there “have been no ‘mass firings’ and worker shortages because of vaccine requirements” so far. Although some polls have erroneously suggested that vaccine mandates would lead to mass quittings, additional surveys have revealed that people are rarely following through on these threats.

According to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll conducted last month, only 5 percent of unvaccinated adults said that they have left their jobs due to their employers voluntarily requiring vaccines — even though 1 in 4 workers say that such a requirement has been imposed on them.

Polling conducted by Gallup shortly after Biden announced the OSHA rule in September found that a majority of Americans backed the plan. When asked whether companies with more than 100 workers should impose vaccine requirements, with the option to present weekly tests for those who opt not to get vaccinated, 58 percent of Americans said they agreed with the rule, while just 42 percent said they did not. On requiring health care workers whose employers receive federal funding to get vaccinated, the split was even wider: 63 percent said they supported that idea, while only 37 percent said they did not.

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