COVID-19 vaccines now available to most New Yorkers– and they are free. Credit: New York City Mayor’s Office
By Thalif Deen
NEW YORK, Sep 2 2021 (IPS)
The rigid new restrictions imposed by New York city– currently facing a surge in the deadly Delta corona virus variant– have prompted scores of US companies to impose mandatory vaccinations on all employees, mostly returning to work after temporary lockdowns.
The mandate follows the approval last week of the Pfizer vaccination by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after a prolonged study of its effectiveness.
The leading businesses that have imposed mandatory vaccinations on hundreds and thousands of their employees include Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Facebook, Google, Walt Disney, Amtrak, United Airlines, Capital One and McDonalds, along with nearly one million students in schools and Universities in New York city, which currently has a population of over 8.8 million people.
The new mandate comes into force on September 27, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio.
According to a New York Times database, more than 56.5 percent of people in the US have received at least one dose of the vaccination while 48.9 percent are fully vaccinated with two shots.
As of July 2021, the US population stands at 333.2 million, the world’s third most populous nation, ranking behind China and India, with over 1.3 billion each.
In New York city alone there have been over 1.0 million cases of Covid-related illnesses and more than 33,700 deaths since the pandemic last year.
Following the FDA approval, US President Joe Biden was more emphatic: “if you’re a business leader, a non-profit leader, a state or local leader, who has been waiting for FDA approval to require vaccinations, I call on you now to do that. Require it”.
The vaccine refusal by millions of Americans is either for political, personal or medical reasons, with some describing mandatory vaccinations as “a violation of civil rights”.
Meanwhile, in a letter released August 13, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says the Delta variant “is posing some challenges to our planning, and we will be taking additional precautionary measures to ensure a safe work environment for our personnel and delegates. “
The letter comes ahead of the high-level meeting of the General Assembly—scheduled for September 21– which is usually attended by more than 150 world leaders. But this year, it may be a hybrid version: a mix of mostly video conferencing and few in-person appearances.
The UN will continue to follow all restrictions imposed by New York, the host city for the world body. Conforming to city guidelines, the UN is expected to insist on proof of vaccination to use several of the dining facilities in the Secretariat building and also mandatory in-house mask-wearing.
“In order to align UNHQ’s approach to indoor dining with that of NYC’s guidance, we will soon require proof of vaccination for seated meals at cafeterias and other dining facilities on premises.,” says Guterres.
Further guidance on full return to work is being developed and will be issued in September.
To ensure adequate protection for all colleagues, all UN personnel must wear masks when indoors on premises, a rule which was effective August 13. “We will reassess this requirement as conditions warrant.”
The letter says the most significant driver of COVID19-related risk is vaccination status. Accurate information on the vaccination status of staff is therefore essential to determine risk and appropriate mitigation strategies.
The mandate for vaccinations may be waived where a recognized medical condition prevents vaccination.
Those staff members who will be required to be vaccinated must receive the final dose of a vaccine no later than 19 September 2021.
Any COVID-19 vaccine that is recognized by the WHO, or under routine approved-use by a Member State’s national health authority, is accepted.