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Analysts say to expect backlash over Biden’s COVID-19 vaccination rules

President Joe Biden speaks in the State Dining Room at the White House on Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021. Photo: Andrew Harnik, Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY – President Biden has unveiled a new six-point plan that he believes will boost COVID-19 vaccinations all over the country. 

Some business analysts say the country will likely see a tremendous amount of backlash from employers, and some Utah lawmakers are already lashing out against it.

When the plan goes into effect, President Biden says it would impact 100 million Americans.  One part of the plan would require all federal employees to get vaccinated. And that includes all outside contractors that work with the federal government.  Health care workers at facilities that receive Medicare and Medicaid funding would also have to be fully vaccinated.  Plus, any company that employs 100 workers or more would have to mandate their employees. Those employees would either have to get the vaccine, or workers would have to be tested every week.

Not an easy plan to roll out

The Employers Council Utah and Arizona Offices Director Glenn Pelster says the official rules about these mandates would have to be hammered out by OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration), and this will not be an easy plan to roll out.

Pelster said, “There’s just a lot of moving parts here that are not going to come together smoothly.”

Pelster believes employers have a myriad of questions about the new rules.  What would the penalties be if they don’t comply?  Who would enforce vaccine mandates?  Who would pay for the testing?  Pelster said managers are going to have to wait for the official guidance from OSHA.

However, he says there will have to be a way employers can provide exemptions for medical or religious reasons.  Pelster believes many workers across the country are going to become well-versed in finding loopholes to the rules if they don’t want to get the shots.

“For employers, that means you are also going to have to be well-versed in how to properly handle a disability or religious exemption,” Pelster said.

The Deseret News reports Rep. John Curtis calls the president’s plan “illegal and absurd,” and it will only cause more vaccine hesitancy.  Senator Mike Lee says the president is “coercing private citizens to undergo a medical procedure.”

Utah’s current vaccination rate

Currently, officials say over 70 percent of all Utahns age 16 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine.  Utah Department of Health Immunization Director Rich Lakin says doctors used to believe we would need to reach 70 percent vaccination to reach herd immunity.  However, the highly contagious Delta variant has changed that.

He said, “In order to hit herd immunity, 70 percent is not really an accurate number, anymore.”

For highly contagious diseases, like the Delta variant, Lakin says immunization rates have to be much higher.  He believes we would need to reach 90 percent vaccination to reach herd immunity from that variant.

“For example, measles, because it’s very contagious, we have to be above that 90 percent mark in order to control outbreaks,” Lakin said.

 

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