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Most workplaces in viral text do mandate COVID-19 vaccinations, including CDC and Pfizer

A viral text claimed seven federal agencies, health organizations and vaccine makers did not mandate employee COVID-19 vaccinations. But in reality, all but one do.
Credit: AP
FILE - In this July 22, 2021, file photo, health care worker fills a syringe with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. U.S. health officials Wednesday, Aug. 18, recommended all Americans get COVID-19 booster shots to shore up their protection amid the surging delta variant and evidence that the vaccines' effectiveness is falling. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

UPDATE (9/10/21): President Joe Biden announced on Sept. 9 that all executive branch federal employees and contractors are required to be vaccinated, eliminating the option federal employees previously had to comply with weekly testing and mask requirements in lieu of vaccinations. Additionally, President Biden announced the Department of Labor will develop an emergency rule requiring all employers with 100 or more employees ensure their workforces are fully vaccinated or show a negative COVID-19 test once a week. The original story as published continues below.

A number of large companies, including Google, Tyson Foods and Walgreens, have announced various vaccine requirement policies for employees over the past month. The American College of Physicians and other national health professional organizations released a joint statement urging healthcare and long-term care employers to require employee vaccinations.

Many VERIFY viewers sent us a viral message created in response to those mandates that claim the White House, the CDC, the FDA, the WHO, Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson don’t have employee vaccine mandates of their own. Those viewers have asked if the message’s claims are true.

THE QUESTION

Do the White House, the CDC, the FDA, the WHO, Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson have employee vaccine mandates?

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

Credit: VERIFY

Six of the seven organizations have employee vaccine mandates. The only organization on this list without a mandate for employees is the WHO. 

WHAT WE FOUND

The WHO’s definition of “mandatory vaccination,” according to an April policy brief, are vaccinations compelled by threats of restrictions on those who don’t get vaccinated. The WHO says these policies typically allow a limited number of exceptions.

“Despite its name, ‘mandatory vaccination’ is not truly compulsory, i.e., force or threat of criminal sanction are not used in cases of non-compliance,” the WHO says.

Employers in the United States have to follow rules set by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) when it comes to mandatory vaccinations. The EEOC allows for workplaces to require all employees physically entering the workplace to get vaccinated, although in some circumstances employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations for employees who cannot get vaccinated because of disability or religious beliefs.

This is where each organization stands in terms of mandatory vaccination policies. 

THE WHITE HOUSE, CDC AND FDA

   

This is true.

A July 29 order from President Biden required all federal employees to confirm their vaccination status. Any federal employee who is not fully vaccinated is required to wear a mask at work, physically distance from other employees, comply with weekly or twice-weekly testing requirements and face restrictions on official travel.

Anyone working for a federal government department or agency is a federal employee, including the CDC and the FDA, which are both federal agencies under the Health and Human Services Department. That means the White House’s vaccine mandate applies to employees at the CDC and the FDA just as it does to employees at the White House.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a July 23 press conference that the Biden Administration had not mandated vaccinations for White House staff at the time. Her comment, which came nearly a week before Biden's order mandating vaccines for federal employees, did not refer to any future decisions regarding mandates for White House staff.

PFIZER

   

This is true.

Pfizer confirmed in an email that it has a similar policy for its U.S. employees. 

"Pfizer is requiring all U.S. colleagues and contractors to become vaccinated as a condition of work or participate in regular weekly COVID-19 testing," a Pfizer spokesperson wrote. "This is to best protect the health and safety of our colleagues and the communities we serve. Outside the U.S., the company is strongly encouraging all colleagues who are able to do so in their countries get vaccinated. Colleagues who have medical conditions or religious objections will be able to seek accommodations. Colleagues are still required to adhere to all COVID-19 state, local and Pfizer safety procedures while engaged in Pfizer work."

MODERNA

   

This is true.

Moderna announced on Aug. 20 it will require COVID-19 vaccinations for all of its U.S. employees by Oct. 1. Moderna says it will consider requests for medical and religious exemptions on an individual basis.

JOHNSON & JOHNSON

   

This is true.

Johnson & Johnson confirmed via email that all of its employees in the United States will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 effective Oct. 4. 

"The Company announced today that effective October 4, all employees and contractors of the Company in the United States will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19," a Johnson & Johnson spokesperson wrote Aug. 19. "Individuals who have medical conditions or other reasons not to be vaccinated will be able to seek accommodations."

THE WHO

This is false.

The WHO is headquartered in Switzerland and has staff working in the offices of 149 other countries.

The WHO confirmed in an email it does not have a vaccination policy in place for its employees, although the WHO said there are situations where a “strong recommendation to be vaccinated” might be issued and cited healthcare environments as an example. The WHO referred to its April policy brief for its current stance on mandatory vaccinations.

“The World Health Organization (WHO) does not presently support the direction of mandates for COVID-19 vaccination, having argued that it is better to work on information campaigns and making vaccines accessible,” the WHO said in that brief.

More from VERIFY: Yes, it is legal for an employer to require vaccinated and unvaccinated workers to be separated

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