Should Workers Require COVID Vaccines Before Returning to the Office?

As we appear to be gradually returning to normality, even as coronavirus cases surge upwards, an increasing number of US businesses have announced COVID-19 vaccination mandates as they prepare to welcome workers back to the office. But is this something that should be rolled out nationally, or potentially even globally, in order to combat COVID?

Leading the way are two of the big tech giants Facebook and Google, who have both stated that whilst they anticipate that certain departments will remain remote, those who do return to the office are required to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, which for Google employees, the return is set to be by October 18th. These actions have been taken in light of the increasingly wide spread Indian Delta variant, and will first be enforced within their US offices, before moving on to their global operations. However, they're not alone in this, Delta Airlines, The Washington Post, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, and nine other large corporations, as well as a range of health centres and hospitals across the US, have to date stipulated that their employees are also required to be vaccinated.

The move comes as the more infectious Delta variant has led to a rise in coronavirus infections across the US, particularly in areas where inoculation rates are low because people are vaccine hesitant. This has led to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention warning of a 'pandemic of the unvaccinated', and as a result chose to reverse previous guidance, and state that masks should once again be worn indoors in areas where there is substantial Covid-19 transmission. However, even with warnings from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, not all businesses are following the lead of Google and Facebook. Other organisations such as ALDI, Amazon, American Airlines, McDonalds, Lidl, Starbucks, Target, and in addition to ten other large enterprises have chosen to instead incentive vaccinations, rather than enforce it. Employees of these firms who utilise this scheme can benefit from either paid time off work, bonus payments up to $500, gift cards or even fuel points. Whilst incentives will no doubt entice some people to get a jab who would not have otherwise done so, it's not without it's ethical considerations, whereby people who need the money might be more swayed by COVID-19 vaccine incentives than their wealthier peers.

The Economist reported that, by some estimates, herd immunity from COVID-19 will require 70-90% of the world’s population to be vaccinated. But in many countries, the proportion of people who say they will get a jab does not meet that threshold, and in America, only 60% are willing. Therefore, whether it's through mandates, or incentivising vaccinations, it is imperative that the 70-90% threshold is reached globally. But with COVID-19 acting as catnip to conspiracy theorists who question the safety of vaccines and the motives of officials, many have taken to social media to air their concerns. This has led to fear and worry becoming increasingly widespread, which has made it harder than expected to achieve the minimum 70%, let alone any higher. As a result, much is still needed to convince some Americans to get their COVID vaccine, and in truth, organisations who are either incentivising vaccinations, or downright enforcing it, are positively contributing to the endeavour of those seeking to solve this problem, and ensure global immunity from a pandemic that has already cost too many lives.