Vaccine requirements are the next big strategy

After vaccine incentives largely failed to drive up vaccination numbers, government agencies and corporations alike are now opting for requirements. Hundreds of thousands of Americans learned this week that, in order to keep their jobs, they need to get their shots—or go through a more arduous process like weekly COVID-19 testing.

Here are the major mandates I saw announced this week, and how many people are impacted by each one. 

  • All city workers in NYC: 340,000 municipal workers in the city will need to get vaccinated or tested weekly. This includes teachers, police, and firefighters; a previous NYC guidance (announced last week) focused on public health workers. Staffers in nursing homes and other congregate care settings need to be vaccinated by August 16, while other workers need to do it by September 13—the first day of school in NYC this fall.
  • All state workers in California: A few hours after the NYC requirement was announced, California governor Gavin Newsom said that all CA state employees will similarly need to get vaccinated or opt into weekly testing. This applies to about 246,000 state employees and an undetermined number of healthcare workers, according to the New York Times.
  • All frontline workers in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA): Also on Monday, the VA announced that all healthcare workers in VA facilities need to get vaccinated, along with facilities staff and others on the frontlines of patient care. Employees have eight weeks to get fully vaccinated, or may face consequences including potential firing. This applies to about 115,000 workers.
  • All Disney employees: Disney is requiring vaccinations for all salaried and non-union employees. Those who haven’t gotten their shots yet have 60 days to do so, and new hires need to be fully vaccinated before starting work. It’s unclear from the company’s announcement if Disney workers will get a testing option or what the consequences for remaining unvaccinated may be. Disney employs over 200,000 people.
  • All Walmart employees: Walmart, the largest retailer in the U.S., is requiring all U.S.-based corporate employees to be vaccinated by October 4. This doesn’t include workers in Walmart stores, but those workers are strongly encouraged to get their shots as well—and will get a $150 bonus upon vaccination. Walmart employs about 1.5 million people in the U.S., in total.
  • All Google employees: Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai announced Google’s new policy on Wednesday: anyone coming back to work at a Google campus must be vaccinated. The policy is starting in the U.S., but will be expanded to the rest of the world as well; Google employs over 100,000 people globally.
  • Netflix actors and crew: Netflix is requiring all actors and crew in close contact with those actors to get vaccinated in order to come on set. Some have called for the requirement to be expanded to everyone at the company. The company employed about 9,400 full-time workers in 2020; it’s unclear how many will be impacted by the requirement.
  • Shake Shack workers and customers: The franchise’s founder and CEO announced Shake Shack’s requirement on Thursday, saying it would apply to full-service restaurants in NYC and Washington, D.C. While this requirement impacts far fewer workers than others in this list, it’s unique in that workers aren’t the only ones who need to be vaccinated: any customer hoping to dine in a Shake Shack needs proof of vaccination, too.

It’s unclear how much of a dent these mandates will make in overall vaccination numbers over the next few weeks. But surveys from KFF and others have suggested that, for many Americans, a vaccination requirement may be the last push they need to get their shots.

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