On Thursday, President Joe Biden issued an executive order requiring all employers with 100+ workers to require vaccinations. The order is Biden’s latest attempt to encourage vaccination among Americans in light of the surging Delta variant.
It is indeed true that a lot of companies –– especially health care companies –– have mandated vaccines in some way. But as of yet, this is the most comprehensive mandate and is estimated to impact over 80 million workers in the private sector.
The mandate will disproportionately impact poor Americans
A lot of evidence has shown that the vaccines possess significant risk-reduction benefits from COVID-19 sickness, hospitalization, and even death, especially among the most vulnerable individuals. But vaccine mandates are bound to come with their own negative ramifications.
For one, data show that poor Americans have made up a huge percentage of the unvaccinated at every turn. Therefore this group will be the most impacted by the vaccine mandate.
According to the Census Bureau’s latest Household Survey, which was conducted in the last week of August, households with annual incomes less than $25,000 made up the highest proportion of unvaccinated individuals at 14.5 percent. Additionally, close to a third of all unvaccinated Americans live in households with annual incomes of less than $50,000.
It is quite possible that a vaccine mandate might be able to move the needle for some unvaccinated individuals, it is highly unlikely to be a lot of people. Americans are reluctant to get vaccinated for numerous varying reasons, with the majority of individuals expressing worry over the safety of the vaccines.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than half of all unvaccinated individuals surveyed reported that they did not receive or plan on receiving the vaccine due to concerns about the possible side effects of the vaccine. Another 42 percent of surveyed individuals expressed a general lack of trust in the COVID-19 vaccines, and a big chunk –– 39 percent –– said they do not trust the government.
The vaccine mandate is unlikely to alleviate these concerns among the majority of individuals. It is even quite possible that the mandate might worsen trust issues in the government among individuals with whom trust is already an issue.
Throughout the pandemic, mandates of any kind have proven burdensome and ineffective. One potential reason for that is because people mainly take their own measures to protect themselves against risk; therefore mandates do make a huge difference. Another reason is that mandates might go unfollowed, thereby also accomplishing nothing.
But whether it is effective or not, the mandate still places a heavy burden on the ability of unvaccinated individuals –– the majority of whom are the poorest –– to access new jobs or keep existing jobs in places where vaccines are mandated.
Unvaccinated Americans are worried about safety, and vaccine mandates do not address that. So it is hard to expect this mandate to be effective.