How Many People Will Be Impacted by Biden’s Vaccine Rules?

The Biden administration ordered new mandates requiring employees working for private businesses with at least 100 workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo weekly testing for the infection.

The deadline for employees in the private sector cannot go into effect until the Department of Labor issues the rule, which is expected in the coming weeks.

The mandates will affect approximately 100 million Americans, a large percentage of which likely remain unprotected from COVID-19.

Public health experts suspect it could take a few months to see the impact of the sweeping new mandates to influence the course of the pandemic.

“Public data have suggested that approvals from federal agencies and vaccine mandates coupled together are likely to pack a powerful punch. It’s become clear that more must be done to reach a critical level of community and population vaccination rates to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Dr. Chris T. Pernell, a public health expert and preventive medicine specialist with University Hospital in New Jersey and a fellow of the American College of Preventive Medicine, told Healthline.

Will the mandates boost vaccination rates?

Public health experts are hopeful that the new mandates will lead to a significant increase in vaccinations in the coming weeks.

“I expect the mandates will definitely boost vaccination rates if, for no other reason, than the fact that people don’t want to either lose their jobs, which could happen if they refuse, or because people don’t want to submit to weekly testing — which can be both intrusive and annoying,” says Rohit Khanna, a public health epidemiologist and author of Misunderstanding Health.

The impact will largely vary from location to location, depending on each area’s vaccination rates. Areas with lower vaccination rates will likely see a greater impact.

“The effect of these mandates will be uneven. You might not notice anything in Vermont, but in Mississippi you will,” Khanna said.

Pernell is hopeful that the mandate will lead to a significant increase in vaccinations and provide a shield against COVID-19 during what is expected to be a difficult fall and winter.

“Having more people vaccinated will allow us to return to some form of normalcy particularly in communities where incentives have worked at one time but have now fizzled out,” says Kenneth Campbell, DBe, MPH, the program director of Tulane University’s Master of Health Administration.

How many unvaccinated people might the mandates impact?

The United States is seeing about 300 percent more new COVID cases compared to this time last year, which has resulted in an increase in hospitalization and deaths among unvaccinated people.

COVID has continued to surge because so many Americans remain unvaccinated.

“At a time when we thought the worst was behind us, we are seeing places with low vaccination rates surging in parts of the country in unbelievable numbers,” Campbell said.

Currently, 54 percent, or 180 million Americans, are fully vaccinated. The remaining 46 percent are either unvaccinated or received just one dose.

Khanna expects that within the 100 million people the new mandates affect, the breakdown is likely similar.

“I suspect that easily half, if not more, of this group is unvaccinated,” Khanna said.

Looking strictly at healthcare workers, 64 percent of hospital staff, 62.7 percent of nursing home staff, and 54.7 percent of workers at dialysis facilities have been vaccinated, Pernell said.

Over half of the 17 million healthcare workers impacted by the mandates have been vaccinated, but many remain unprotected.

Millions of Americans have held out on vaccination. Some of these people are fearful or skeptical of the shots. Others haven’t had the technology to book an appointment, time off work, or reliable transportation to get to and from their appointments.

“These mandates will impact over 100 million workers, some of which undoubtedly remain among the 80 million eligible, still unvaccinated Americans,” Pernell said.

When will we see an impact?

It could take a few months before the mandates influence the course of the pandemic.

For one, it takes well over a month for people to achieve full immunity after their first dose.

In addition, not all of the 100 million people the mandates affect will immediately go get vaccinated.

“When you take those time frames into account in addition to the fact that people are not super-eager to run out and get vaccinated, it will be a few months at minimum and could reasonably stretch into 2022 before we see a meaningful impact,” Khanna said.

Pernell suspects there will be a ripple effect from the mandate.

“What we need to see is this mandate being used to influence more leaders to encourage their communities to receive the vaccine,” Pernell said.

She hopes states and local legislators will follow the Biden administration’s lead and introduce vaccine mandates in their local jurisdictions.

As vaccination rates increase, the country will be able to better manage and prevent future outbreaks.

“To curb the surge, this mandate means more healthcare workers, federal contractors, and private-sector employees will get vaccinated — it’s a great start,” Campbell said.

The bottom line

The Biden administration enacted new mandates requiring private businesses with at least 100 employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or get tested for the infection weekly.

Public health experts are hopeful the new mandates will boost vaccination rates and help us prevent and control future outbreaks. The impact of the mandates, however, might take a few months to see.