Following full FDA approval, should employees be required to get COVID vaccines?

Discussion
Photo: RetailWire
Aug 24, 2021

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced yesterday that it has given full approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for the prevention of the virus in people 16 years of age or older.

“The FDA’s approval of this vaccine is a milestone as we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Janet Woodcock, M.D., acting FDA Commissioner, in a statement. “While this and other vaccines have met the FDA’s rigorous, scientific standards for emergency use authorization, as the first FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine, the public can be very confident that this vaccine meets the high standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality the FDA requires of an approved product.”

Dr. Woodcock said that the agency’s approval of the vaccine as well as the safe experiences of millions of people who have already received it should “instill additional confidence” in those who were unwilling to be immunized under the emergency use authorization.

The Kaiser Foundation found that 31 percent of those who have yet to get vaccinated had said they would be more likely to do so after the FDA gave its full approval. A study published last month by researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh reported that vaccine hesitancy among U.S. adults decreased by one-third between January and May of this year.

The government has reported recent increases in daily vaccination rates spurred by the rapid rise in numbers of people sickened by the Delta variant. The numbers of children being hospitalized has also risen as the new variant spreads more quickly, particularly among the unvaccinated.

News coverage has begun to focus more on the reactions that vaccinated people have to those who refuse to get their shots. It is becoming increasingly common for vaccinated individuals to call for government or business mandates as cases spread as a result of what they see as shortsighted and often tribalistic behavior on the part of those refusing vaccines.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Should retailers and other employers mandate vaccines for all employees (except those with medical exemptions) based on the FDA’s full approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 shots? Should this rule be extended to customers shopping in stores, as well?

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21 Comments on "Following full FDA approval, should employees be required to get COVID vaccines?"


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Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

The formal approval by the FDA approval will be very helpful. Ultimately, retailers need to decide on how to approach mandates for their businesses, but with formal FDA approval, these decisions can be made with a lot less angst and friction. Clearly, the persistent Delta variant continues to spread at an alarming rate, so mandates will likely become more common now and the FDA approval makes this practical. As for customers, again, it’s the retailers’ decision – with many sports leagues setting rules that fans must be vaccinated, I suspect that some retailers will follow.

Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

The customer part is easy to answer: no. While retailers are entitled to put in place any non-discriminatory requirements for entry they like, doing this for vaccinations and enforcing it is almost impossible. Heck, retailers had trouble enforcing the mask mandate. For employees the situation is less complicated as it is easier to check. However I would still be uneasy about it. I think people should get the vaccine but I don’t like the idea of enforcement. It doesn’t feel or sit right with me.

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

Enough already. With what is happening in Texas, Louisiana and Florida there is plenty of evidence about the outcomes of anti-vaxxing and anti-masking. Our economy, our education system, and the general health and welfare of the whole population is at stake. Yeah, absolutely — mandate the hell out of the vaccines.

Trevor Sumner
BrainTrust

The formal approval by the FDA removes any obstacles for non-religious exemption. At this point, it’s a business decision for 1.) the safety of employees, 2.) the safety of customers. If these are important to you and your shopper communities, I think the answer is clear and inevitable. With government employees, school systems and many private companies adopting mandates, it will become a statement to not do it. With many talking about cause marketing, I can’t think of a better cause than working together to fight and suppress the pandemic for the good of workers and customers.

DeAnn Campbell
BrainTrust

As Star Trek’s Spock says, “sometimes the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one.” We’ve reached a point in this pandemic when our responsibility to society may need to take precedence over any unfounded fears of the vaccine. For decades we’ve mandated children be vaccinated before being permitted to attend school, countries mandate certain vaccines before granting admittance. Now that the FDA has fully cleared this vaccine it should be of no more concern than the flu shot that millions of people willingly get every year. I’m just sorry that, once again, it’s retailers who are stuck being the enforcers.

Dave Bruno
BrainTrust

I would personally love to see more vaccine mandates, but recognize that could be a dicey proposition for retailers. Hiring is already so difficult, and until popular opinion moves more strongly in favor of vaccine mandates, I suspect most will be hesitant to impose them. However I really wish more retailers would impose mask mandates for associates and customers, at least until things with Delta quiet down and vaccination rates get higher. The more retailers that do it, the easier it becomes for all.

Harley Feldman
BrainTrust

One disturbing part of this COVID-19 vaccination program is that people who have been exposed to the virus and now have anti-bodies are not counted as safe from the virus. If retailers are going to force employees to get the vaccine, those already having the antibodies should be included with those with medical or religious exemptions.

Customers should not be required to get the vaccine to shop in the stores. Retailers should announce that they have had their employees vaccinated to make customers feel safer and provide encouragement to customers to get vaccinated.

Ken Morris
BrainTrust

Retailers and other employers need to mandate vaccines for all employees. Science and facts cannot be denied. I don’t think there’s any excuse to not get vaccinated. Even dogs need vaccinations to be housed in a kennel or to travel, why not people? I am not really sure what else people need to know. We eliminated polio and smallpox, we can beat this thing if people would just think.

Warren Thayer
BrainTrust

I heard today on NPR that when employer mandates are in place, employees who still refuse vaccinations can be legally fired. Good. And that these fired employees will likely not be able to collect unemployment. Excellent! Enough already!

Dick Seesel
BrainTrust

It’s not an exact parallel because of the severity of COVID-19, but we didn’t require proof of vaccination during past flu outbreaks for customers to enter stores. It’s a tough policy to enforce, although individual venues like restaurants, theaters and concert venues are gaining traction.

Employee mandates are something else and should be encouraged. If employers ban smoking and other kinds of unhealthful behavior at the workplace, why not make vaccination a condition of employment for everyone’s sake? It’s a political hot potato but it’s in everyone’s public health interest — this has gone on longer than it needed to.

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust
These are very personal questions for me, so let me take them in order. With all the religious and health exceptions aside, the answer is, yes, retailers should mandate vaccines for all employees in the same way schools mandate vaccines for incoming students, foodservice operations require certain vaccinations for some workers to comply with local food handing regulations. On the second question I’ll respectfully disagree with some of my fellow BrainTrusters. My answer is a categorical yes. We already see many concert venues insisting on proof of vaccination. No shot? No music. This isn’t a question of individual freedom. It’s a public health issue. Before I was born my oldest first cousin contracted polio. A year later and he would have received the Salk vaccine. He lived for decades in an iron lung, paralyzed from the neck down. It wasn’t pretty. If Americans of the 1950s had thought like Americans of 2021 we might not have eradicated polio, or smallpox, or scores of other diseases. I have freedom to make my own health choices, but… Read more »
Mark Price
BrainTrust

Yes, retailers and employers should require vaccines of employees. Not only does a requirement lead employees to get vaccinated, but vaccinations should reduce sick days as well. Finally, vaccination requirements are a clear value statement from the company that they care about the greater good as well.

For customers, right now there is no quick and easy way to verify vaccinations. Several QR code systems are in test, but are not rolled out. I would recommend mask requirements for customers to maintain traffic and not need dedicated associates at the doors checking.

Paula Rosenblum
BrainTrust

I’d love to write a big, long answer, but all I have is, “yes.”

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

I definitely think businesses should mandate vaccinations for employees, but mandating vaccinations for customers would be a hard sell.

While speaking in Las Vegas last week I read that the city has given incoming trade shows and conferences the right to request that all employees working with their group be vaccinated. We’re not quite there yet, but proof of vaccinations and/or negative COVID-19 test results within 48-72 hours will be required for all attendees soon. This has already been implemented in some places of the city, including large sports and music events.

Mandating vaccinations is not a popular topic, but I do believe that if we are to eradicate COVID-19 in all of its mutations that it is necessary.

DeAnn Campbell
BrainTrust

It’s so interesting to me to see how many downvotes and upvotes this thread has generated. Clearly emotion in both camps is leading this issue!

John Karolefski
BrainTrust

This should be a two-step process. First, all employees must be vaccinated. If the national situation gets worse — if, for example, the delta variant rips through the country — all customers should be masked and vaccinated. Let’s see if there are retailers brave enough to do that. Enough already.

storewanderer
Guest
3 months 14 days ago
Let’s get some honest data from the CDC first regarding how many “breakthrough” cases there are. Those are not currently being reported by the CDC. They just say it is “rare.” Yet there are reports of dozens or hundreds of people who are vaccinated getting COVID after attending events with a lot of people. So why not track those cases? Why not report that? That would give the public a real lens into how effective these vaccines are. Given the amount of Delta variant of COVID spreading among groups of 100% vaccinated individuals, I think the question at this point is do these vaccines need to be reformulated (quickly…) to actually be effective at stopping the spread of COVID? Given the current sales pitch it that it stops hospitalization or makes hospitalization less likely, that is great, but the vaccines were advertised to “stop the spread” of COVID and that is my expectation of what they should be doing. My point is this is not necessarily the right time to force vaccines that are not… Read more »
Craig Sundstrom
Guest

From the very start the vaccines were described as 95% or 98% or … whatever percent effective: I.e, <100%. So logic tells us there were always going to be a lot of "breakthrough" cases, and so you're correct, better stats are needed, as anecdotal reporting is (worse than) useless. Your own experience — high exposure persons getting sick, but only mild symptoms — seems consistent with that (although, again, anecdotal).

As for why we'd want to require vaccinations for employees but still let in unvaccinated customers: most companies find letting in customers is pretty important to how they they do business.

storewanderer
Guest
3 months 14 days ago
From what I am seeing lately, various business, especially fast food, are not able to maintain normal operating hours due to lack of employees. It is almost as if the tide has turned and suddenly the employees are more important than the customer in some markets. I am talking literally fast food places only open 8 AM to 5 PM and drive through only, and not opening at all some days. There is a Taco Bell I drive by regularly during daytime hours — it hasn’t been open in weeks. Signs out front say open interviews 2 PM to 4 PM everyday, but there is nobody in there to do interviews. A couple miles away is a Jack in the Box that has been going drive through only 8 AM to 5 PM (and doesn’t open every day) again due to staff shortage. I know that isn’t retail and this is RetailWire, so okay, I’ll go with a retail example. A Rite Aid (typical operating hours 8 AM to 10 PM) has been running with… Read more »
Craig Sundstrom
Guest

Ah, yes: the moment we’ve all been waiting for … or dreading, really. At this point — reluctantly — I’ll have to say “yes”… at least for those in public facing positions (I’m less concerned if the overnight stockers are inoculated). Indeed, I wonder at what point retailers will begin to see their liability insurance either cancelled or the rates greatly increased if they don’t have a clear policy in place.

For customers, at this point, no.

Rich Duprey
Guest

I follow Paula’s lead and forego a more long winded answer, but I go in the opposite direction: Hell no on mandatory vaccines, for employees or customers.

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