Supreme Court ruling on vaccine and testing requirements leaves next steps ‘in companies’ hands’

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Now many companies, businesses and employers must decide for themselves whether to issue a Covid-19 vaccine or testing requirements for their workers.

The Supreme Court has only blocked the federal government from requiring mandates for vaccines and testing in large workplaces, so nothing is stopping companies from developing such mandates themselves, Dr. Georges told CNN on Friday. Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. .

“Companies can still do that,” Benjamin said, though he added that the federal requirement would have helped “level the playing field” across all major companies when it comes to types of Covid-19 protocols. that they have in place for their employees.

Now, “unions could put pressure on companies that don’t want to do this to protect their members,” Benjamin said. “I think individual employees can demand that their employer do that.”

For large companies that no longer fall under the Biden administration’s mandate to require their employees to be vaccinated or tested, many may still decide to require their employees to be fully vaccinated or undergo regular testing, Dr Josh Sharfstein , associate dean for public health professor of practice and community engagement at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told CNN on Friday.

“These companies are going to have an important decision to make, and I hope they put the health of their workers first,” Sharfstein said.

“I think some employers will decide to impose a similar policy themselves,” he said. “Many employees are reassured by politics, and so they may be supportive of their employers implementing a political program that protects their health.”

There are other ways big companies can still require their employees to be fully vaccinated or undergo routine testing, said Dr. Mark McClellan, former commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration and founding director of the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy. at Duke University, who is also an independent director on the Johnson & Johnson Board of Directors.

For example, the Supreme Court’s decision “does not affect the ability of states or local governments to require vaccinations in businesses, and we have seen many places across the country where this continues to happen,” said McClellan told CNN. “It does not limit the ability of companies to require vaccination of their employees or their customers, for that matter.”

Overall, “it’s now in the hands of business,” Benjamin said.

He added that the Biden administration “could pursue a narrower strategy and come up with another standard,” as one of the criticisms of the original approach was that the administration had not issued such Covid-19 industry requirements. by industry.

For now, the healthcare industry is still subject to the initial vaccine requirements – especially healthcare workers in hospitals, nursing homes and other facilities that participate in Medicare programs and Medicaid.

What happens next for healthcare workers

According to government estimates, the Health Care Worker Mandate regulates more than 10.3 million workers in the United States. Covered personnel were originally scheduled to receive the first dose of the vaccine by December 6, and the mandate allows certain religious and medical exemptions.

Healthcare workers face March 15 vaccination deadline after Supreme Court ruling

Now, healthcare workers covered by the Biden administration’s vaccination mandate will have until March 15 to be fully vaccinated in the 24 states where the mandate was reinstated by the Supreme Court. Twenty-five other states and DC continue to face the Feb. 28 deadline for fully vaccinating healthcare workers that was already in place because the mandate had not been blocked in those states prior to the order. the Supreme Court rendered on Thursday.

That means there will continue to be “very high vaccination rates” among healthcare workers, McClellan said, and they could rise further since some healthcare workers haven’t been vaccinated before.

The warrant – issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services of the US Department of Health and Human Services – remains blocked in the state of Texas alone. Texas filed its own lawsuit challenging the warrant separately from the cases that were before the Supreme Court, and a preliminary injunction in that case remains in effect.

What happens next for public health

There are growing concerns that without some workplaces requiring vaccinations, fewer unvaccinated people could go ahead with their Covid-19 vaccines.

“One thing that’s going to happen because the requirement doesn’t materialize in general for businesses – it’s an opportunity to kind of reduce the volume, or reduce the heat a bit, and think about other ways to engage and build greater local consensus on vaccinations,” said McClellan.

After the Supreme Court ruling, Benjamin said, it’s even more important for public health workers to continue to communicate the benefits of Covid-19 vaccinations to the public and to focus on vaccinating unvaccinated people, including At work.

“I think we should continue to categorically articulate the value of vaccinations,” Benjamin said.

He added that public health departments can also help companies set up in-house vaccination protocols, strategies and even clinics.

“We can work with the business community to make sure they have access to testing and that their employees know how to get tested, not just when they are symptomatic, but routine testing as part of a prevention strategy. test or vaccine. If a company decides they want to do it anyway, the health department can help them with strategies and how to get access to testing,” Benjamin said. “And if a company wants to have a vaccination mandate, they can have mass vaccination clinics at their site of activity.”

CNN’s Tierney Sneed contributed to this report.

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