Earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic, when the vaccines were relatively new, they became one of the most polarizing issues in the U.S. Companies and industries that required proof of vaccination for employment were both vilified and cheered. Now as the pandemic is easing, do companies still have vaccine mandates?
A number of large corporations implemented mandates for employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a means to protect all those working onsite. In addition, in September 2021, President Biden announced his vaccine mandate for companies of at least 100 employees to require vaccination or weekly testing.
Vaccine mandates and how they were enforced varied by company.
After the Supreme Court blocked the federal mandate for vaccinations, plenty of corporations instituted their own vaccine mandates for employees. Vaccine mandates haven’t all been enforced in the same way. Some companies offered the alternative of weekly COVID-19 testing to those who didn't want to get the shot.
Other employees chose to leave companies over vaccine requirements, and some were let go from their positions.
Gig companies Lyft, Doordash, and Uber required vaccines for office workers but not for front-line workers like drivers.
Which companies have lifted vaccine mandates?
Although some companies like Goldman Sachs are lifting their vaccination requirements, not all of them are announcing it, Axios reported this month. The bank ended its vaccine mandate in all offices except in New York City.
In March of this year, JPMorgan Chase announced it would return to hiring unvaccinated people in April.
In June 2022, Cisco lifted its vaccine mandate for employees and contingent workers. Cisco announced the ending of those rules for anyone visiting, attending events, or traveling for the company.
The White House has also eased up on its vaccine promotion and encouraged employers to make updated vaccines available, but not pushing them as a requirement.
Certain corporations are keeping the vaccine requirement.
As of April, about 38 percent of employers required a COVID-19 vaccine. According to Axios, Google, Edelman, and Facebook all continue to require employees entering the offices to be vaccinated. Microsoft is one of the companies that declined to comment on the issue.
Why are some companies ending their vaccine mandates?
One of the reasons for vaccine mandates ending at some corporations is likely economical: they want to remove the additional barrier to employment. Vaccine mandates can be costly and complex to enforce, plus they’re a deterrent to some potential new hires.
Some companies are ending their vaccine requirements due to improvements in coronavirus treatments and preventive tools like vaccines and testing. As Goldman Sachs told employees in a memo, there’s “significantly less risk of severe illness” thanks to those developments.
Dr. Leana Wen, a public health professor at George Washington University, told Axios that when most vaccine mandates were put in place, vaccines were seen as quite effective in preventing viral spread. However, as more COVID-19 variants emerge, she said “the case for vaccine mandates is much weaker than it was in 2021.”