HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Millions more Americans will soon have to get vaccinated or get tested weekly under a mandate from President Joe Biden.
The rule applies to anyone working at a company with at least 100 employees and to healthcare workers at facilities that treat Medicaid and Medicare patients. Those healthcare workers do not have the weekly testing option and must get vaccinated.
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The deadline to implement this policy is Jan. 4. It will be enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, says vaccinating more people is a public health priority.
“We know the most disruptive thing in a workforce is to have a covid outbreak and to have workers in that workforce come down with COVID infection, severe disease, and in some cases death,” Walensky said.
Alex Halper with the PA Chamber of Business and Industry says there are questions about how businesses are supposed to put this mandate in place.
“Pennsylvania businesses need to know what’s expected of them. This rule is almost 500 pages long. There are so many details and the stakes are very high for employers,” Halper said.
Every violation could cost $14,000. So Halper is hopeful that OSHA will work with companies.
“Any time you’re encouraging vaccination it is a good thing, but it has to be done in a smart, thoughtful, collaborative way,” Halper said.
Halper said stopping the pandemic would definitely be good for Pennsylvania businesses. However, he also pointed out that the mandate brings up some concerns.
“If it does discourage individuals from entering or staying in the workforce, there could be even worsening workforce challenges,” Halper said.
Meanwhile, with the recent approval of vaccines for 5- to 11-year-olds, Pennsylvania’s Department of Health is encouraging parents to get their kids vaccinated. But Acting Secretary Alison Beam says they are not planning to mandate it in schools.
“At this time there is no discussions about mandatory vaccinations, particularly as it’s approved on the EUA [Emergency Use Authorization]. So that is not in the forecast for the near future,” Beam said.