By NANCY WEST, InDepthNH.org
As the COVID-19 surge continues in New Hampshire and across the country, President Joe Biden announced emergency rules that will require all employers with more than 100 employees to make sure their workers are vaccinated or tested weekly.
Vaccination will be required of all federal workers and millions of contractors doing business with the federal government and employers will be required to provide paid time off to get vaccinated.
The new rules announced at 5 p.m. Thursday in Biden’s televised speech will also mandate that over 17 million health-care workers at Medicare and Medicaid participating hospitals and other health-care settings be vaccinated. Biden also called on large entertainment venues to require proof of vaccination or testing for entry.
The vaccination rules cover about 100 million workers.
Attempts to get comments from Gov. Chris Sununu and the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services were unsuccessful.
Former acting state epidemiologist Rich DiPentima said Biden’s plan is “excellent, but a little late.”
He said there will obviously be little support from Republican governors.
“But they will have to deal with the consequences of their actions or inaction. If we want to get past this crisis, the only way out is to get at least 80% of the population vaccinated. There is no other viable way out. Even Sununu said ‘you gotta get vaccinated,’ of course while he was making it easier for people not to get vaccinated and face no consequences other than possible disease,” DiPentima said.
According to the state website, only 55 percent of New Hampshire residents are fully vaccinated.
On Thursday, the state Department of Health and Human Services announced 522 new COVID-19 cases in New Hampshire, 5 deaths and 140 people hospitalized.
For now, the federal rules require staff in Head Start Programs, Department of Defense Schools, and Bureau of Indian Education-Operated Schools to be vaccinated where he has federal authority.
Biden also called on all states to adopt vaccine requirements for all school employees.
Biden also spoke about booster shots and said he will be ready. “As soon as authorizations are given, the Administration will be prepared to offer booster shots, starting the week of September 20,” Biden said.
“As we work to ensure our children are protected, we know that vaccination remains the best line of defense against COVID-19. For those adolescents aged 12 and above who are eligible for vaccination, the most important step parents can take is to get them vaccinated. To date, over half of the nation’s adolescents have been vaccinated. For those too young to be vaccinated, it is especially critical that they are surrounded by vaccinated people and mask in public indoor spaces, including schools. Studies released by the CDC found that the rate of hospitalization for children was nearly four times higher in states with the lowest vaccination rates compared to states with high vaccination rates,” Biden said.
The FDA is undergoing a process now to evaluate a vaccine for children under the age of 12, and under the President’s plan, the Administration will do whatever it takes to support those efforts, while continuing to respect and defer to the scientific decision-making of the agency.