Are vaccine mandates on the horizon?

A name tag with a sticker on it.
Inez Kalle, director of nursing for Episcopal Homes in St. Paul, Minn., wears a sticker on her name badge to encourage other employees to get their COVID-19 vaccine on May 5.
Evan Frost | MPR News file

Businesses are preparing to call workers back to the office, and universities are ready to welcome students back to campus — in the midst of a resurgent wave of COVID-19 infections.

Rochelle Walensky, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says the pandemic is now a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.” More than 99 percent of deaths from COVID-19 this month can be traced back to people who hadn’t gotten immunized against the disease.

Because of that, some corporations — most notably, hospitals — are starting to require the COVID-19 vaccine for its workforce. A coalition of health care organizations last week called on all medical facilities in the U.S. to demand vaccinations for health care personnel. A new report found that about 1 in 4 people who work directly with patients in hospitals are not vaccinated

Universities are also entering the fray, with some mandating that students returning to campus get vaccinated or stay home. 

Leading infectious disease experts applaud the moves. Dr. Anthony Fauci said that while a nationwide vaccine mandate is unlikely, he would like to see more localized attempts to require the vaccine. He also called on the Food and Drug Administration to give final authorization to the COVID-19 vaccines.

That’s a step some organizations, like the military, say they are waiting for before they make a final decision about requiring the vaccines. 

Is this the right idea, at the right time? Or is requiring vaccines a step too far? Monday morning, host Kerri Miller talked about the pros and cons of vaccine mandates with two experts — including Minnesota’s leading infectious disease expert and a doctor who co-authored the recommendation that health care workers be required to get vaccinated. 

Guests:

  • Dr. Hilary M. Babcock is an infectious disease expert at Washington University School of Medicine who specializes in the prevention of infection transmission in health care settings. 

  • Mike Osterholm is an epidemiologist and the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

To listen to the full conversation you can use the audio player above.

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