US President Joe Biden on Thursday announced a series of steps, including issuing several executive orders and taking a few punitive measures, aimed at vaccinating the rest of the US, arguing that the unvaccinated people pose a grave danger to the health of all Americans.
The Biden administration has been successful in vaccinating a significantly large population of the country, but the fact that about 25 per cent of eligible Americans—about 80 million people—who remain unvaccinated pose a threat to the gains made by him in the fight against COVID-19.
“My message to unvaccinated Americans is this: What more is there to wait for? What more do you need to see? We have made vaccinations free, safe and convenient. The vaccine is FDA approved. Over 200 million Americans have gotten at least one shot. We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin and your refusal has cost all of us,” Biden said in an address to the nation from the White House.
“So please, do the right thing… the vast majority of Americans are doing the right thing. Nearly three-quarters of the eligible have gotten at least one shot, but one quarter has not gotten any. That’s nearly 80 million Americans not vaccinated and a country as large as ours, that’s 25 per cent minority. That 25 per cent can cause a lot of damage, and they are,” he said.
Announcing a new plan to require more Americans to be vaccinated to combat those blocking public health, Biden said his plan also increases testing. “It protects our economy and will make our kids safer in schools,” he said. Some of the prominent measures taken by Biden include a new rule requiring all private employers with more than 100 employees to mandate weekly testing as well as plans to require vaccines for federal workers and contractors.
“My plan will extend the vaccination requirements that I previously issued in the health care field. Already, I’ve announced, we’ll be requiring vaccinations (for) all nursing home workers who treat patients on Medicare and Medicaid because I have that federal authority. Tonight, I’m using that same authority to expand that to cover those who work in hospitals, home health care facilities, or other medical facilities, a total of 17 million health care workers,” he said.
He also asked nearly 3,00,000 educators in the federal head start programmes to get vaccinated and called on all governors to require vaccination for all teachers and staff.
Biden said another plan is focused on increasing testing and masking. “From the start, America has failed to do enough COVID-19 testing. In order to better detect and control the delta variant, I’m taking steps tonight to make testing more available, more affordable and more convenient. I use the Defense Production Act to increase production of rapid tests, including those that you can use at home,” he said.
“In addition to testing, we know masking helps stop the spread of COVID-19. That’s why when I came into office, I required masks for all federal buildings and on federal lands, on airlines and other modes of transportation,” he said, adding that the Transportation Safety Administration will double the fines on travellers that refuse to mask.
Reiterating that COVID-19 transcends border, he said the US needs to continue fighting the virus overseas and continue to be the arsenal of vaccines. “We’re proud to have donated nearly 140 million vaccines over 90 countries, more than all other countries combined, including Europe, China, and Russia combined,” he said.
“That’s American leadership on a global stage. And that’s just the beginning. We’ve also now started to ship another 500 million COVID vaccines, Pfizer vaccines, purchased to donate to 100 lower-income countries in need of vaccines. And I’ll be announcing additional steps to help the rest of the world later this month,” Biden said.