Ahead of President Joe Biden's expected announcement of a new requirement for federal employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19, the AFL-CIO-affiliated American Postal Workers Union said Wednesday it opposes vaccine mandates.
"Maintaining the health and safety of our members is of paramount importance. While the APWU leadership continues to encourage postal workers to voluntarily get vaccinated, it is not the role of the federal government to mandate vaccinations for the employees we represent," the union said in a statement.
"Issues related to vaccinations and testing for COVID-19 in the workplace must be negotiated with the APWU. At this time the APWU opposes the mandating of COVID-19 vaccinations in relation to U.S. postal workers."
Various news outlets reported Wednesday that Biden will require federal employees to show that they've been vaccinated or be forced to undergo regular COVID-19 testing to keep their jobs. Speaking to reporters that day, Biden said a federal vaccine mandate was under consideration and "if you're not vaccinated, you're not nearly as smart as I thought you were."
"We have a pandemic because of the unvaccinated, and they're sowing enormous confusion. And the more we learn — the more we learn about this virus and the Delta variation, the more we have to be worried and concerned," said Biden. "And only one thing we know for sure: If those other hundred million people got vaccinated, we'd be in a very different world."
Mandates, though enormously unpopular with the American people, have in recent weeks been discussed by government and public health officials as the only means of ensuring enough Americans get vaccinated against COVID to slow the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.
According to the New York Times vaccine tracker, 57.6% of Americans eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine (age 12 and up) have been fully vaccinated, while 66.8% have received at least one vaccine dose. Public health officials say 70% to 90% of Americans need to be vaccinated before the U.S. will reach the level of herd immunity necessary to end the pandemic.
However, many Americans remain hesitant to take the vaccines and say nothing will persuade them to get vaccinated. Some are concerned about the risks of possible side effects and the fact that the FDA technically has not approved any of the vaccines.
The various COVID-19 vaccines widely used in the U.S. have received emergency approval from the Food and Drug Administration during the pandemic. Though more than 338 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the U.S. and coronavirus cases have plummeted, the FDA has yet to fully approve the vaccines.
Now, with cases rising again, physicians and scientists are urging the FDA to speedily approve the vaccines, noting that their widespread use has effectively reduced severe COVID-19 cases (those that put people in the hospital) with extremely rare instances of side effects. FDA approval could mean, however, that businesses and state governments will feel comfortable mandating vaccination for their employees.