Following the decision by the US president, Joe Biden, to introduce a vaccine mandate for millions of workers, and the UK government’s decision to row back on its push to require vaccine passports for nightclubs and other crowded events, where does the issue of insisting on vaccination stand globally?

What did Biden announce last week?

The new US rules require most federal employees to be vaccinated as well as employees of companies larger than 100 employees who will either have to be vaccinated or face mandatory testing.

The tough new requirements apply to about 17 million healthcare workers as well as educators in federally run schools and programmes.

Biden has also called on governors to require vaccinations for school employees. In all between 80-100 million people would be covered by the new rules, which will be implemented under occupational health legislation. US Postal Service workers, however, were not included in Biden’s executive order.

Has anyone gone further?

One of Los Angeles’ largest school districts has mandated vaccination against Covid-19 for pupils aged 12 and older. It comes as the Food and Drug Administration says it is working around the clock to authorise Covid vaccines for young children.

School vaccine mandates have the backing of Dr Anthony Fauci, the director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who has said: “I believe that mandating vaccines for children to appear in school is a good idea.”

How does the insistence on vaccination for healthcare workers compare with other countries?

A number of countries including Australia, France and England and Wales have moved to make vaccination mandatory mandatory for care workers including those working in nursing homes. France was one of the first to move towards mandatory vaccination for health workers this summer, with Greece making vaccinations mandatory for nursing home staff in July and healthcare workers from September.

On Monday Greece also introduced mandatory weekly testing for public and private sector employees who will have to pay for weekly tests or carry a vaccination certificate to gain access to their place of work.

In Canada the approach has been more piecemeal with British Columbia announcing in mid-August that it is mandating Covid-19 vaccines for all staff working in long-term care homes and assisted living facilities, the first Canadian provinces to do so.

Italy has decreed health workers, including pharmacists, who are not inoculated could face suspension without pay for the rest of the year.

What about government employees elsewhere?

Canada said on 13 August it would soon require all federal public servants and many other workers to be vaccinated. The vaccine mandate will also include air, train and cruise ship travellers. Fiji has been even more stringent, announcing on 15 August that unvaccinated public servants would have to go on leave.

Where are we on vaccine passes for venues such as nightclubs and restaurants?

While Boris Johnson’s government flip-flopped wildly on the idea of vaccine passports for nightclubs before ruling them out, they have been adopted elsewhere. In Greece as part of new measures only vaccinated customers are allowed in bars, cinemas, theatres and other enclosed spaces.

France made it mandatory to show a Covid pass at cafes, bars and restaurants as the country battled a new wave of coronavirus infections, with the vaccine pass seen as contributing to flattening that surge. A month after that system took effect, coronavirus infections had dropped and millions of people were encouraged to get vaccinated.

Since July, Italy has also required a so-called green pass to attend any indoor activity, including at museums, hotels and restaurants, as well as to travel on trains and planes.

What about widespread vaccine mandates for whole countries?

Italy has toyed with the idea of going even further than it already has, with the prime minister, Mario Draghi, suggesting his government could make Covid-19 vaccines mandatory, prompting a row in the country, where there has been a recent rise in protests and violence from anti-vaxxers.

That would follow Indonesia, which announced mandatory vaccination in February, with potential hefty fines for those who do not comply.


Peter Beaumont

The GuardianTramp

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