Covid-19 roundup: Pfizer imposes vaccine mandate for US workers; WHO calls for moratorium on boosters, while some countries make plans anyway — report
As the US struggles to keep pace with the fast-spreading Delta variant, big companies like Walmart and Disney are imposing vaccine mandates for some workers. It may come as no surprise that Pfizer — the Big Pharma behind the US’ first authorized Covid-19 vaccine — is joining them.
Pfizer will start requiring all US employees and contractors to get vaccinated, or participate in weekly Covid-19 testing, spokesperson Pamela Eisele told Reuters. Workers outside the US are strongly urged to get a vaccine if they can, according to the report. And those with medical conditions or religious objections can seek accommodations.
The news comes about a week after the Department of Justice ruled that such mandates are legal, even for Covid-19 vaccines that have not yet been fully approved, and remain subject to emergency use authorizations. Genentech is also requiring its employees to get vaccinated against Covid-19 before returning to the office.
Some Americans continue to oppose the mandates, arguing that they’re being coerced into taking unapproved vaccines. Back in April, when Houston Methodist in Texas became one of the country’s first health systems to impose a vaccine mandate, Jennifer Bridges and 116 other employees filed suit.
“This is not coercion,” District court judge Lynn Hughes wrote in his opinion on June 12. “Methodist is trying to do their business of saving lives without giving them the Covid-19 virus. It is a choice made to keep staff, patients, and their families safer. Bridges can freely choose to accept or refuse a Covid-19 vaccine; however, if she refuses, she will simply need to work somewhere else.”
The vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech could be fully approved by Labor Day, the New York Times reported yesterday. That timetable is in line with what Peter Marks, the FDA’s director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, has said in previous interviews.
WHO calls for a moratorium on boosters, while some countries make plans anyway — report
The World Health Organization has called for a moratorium on Covid-19 booster shots until at least the end of September, to allow lower-income and largely unvaccinated countries to get access to the life-saving shots.
But some countries are ignoring that request and making plans to administer boosters anyway, including Germany, which says it will give third shots to vulnerable people in September, Reuters reported.
“The possibility of a booster vaccine in September is intended to ensure that those who are particularly at risk are adequately protected,” the country’s health ministry said, per Reuters.
#HealthWorkers, older people & other at-risk groups need #COVID19 vaccines now. @WHO is calling for a moratorium on boosters until at least the end of September, to enable at least 10% of the population of every country to be vaccinated. #VaccinEquity pic.twitter.com/6AwkppgbJj
— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) August 4, 2021
Other countries are jumping in line, including France, which said last month that the first wave of people to receive the vaccine would be eligible for boosters in September, the Washington Post reported. Britain’s also considering plans for boosters next month, while Hungary (which has also authorized shots from Russia and China) is already offering third shots to anyone who wants them, the Post reported.
“I understand the concern of all governments to protect their people from the Delta variant,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced on Wednesday. “But we cannot accept countries that have already used most of the global supply of vaccines using even more of it while the world’s most vulnerable people remain unprotected.”
The WHO hopes a moratorium would allow all countries to vaccinate at least 10% of their populations, before others begin administering boosters.
“We need everyone’s cooperation, especially the handful of countries and companies that control the global supply of vaccines,” he said.