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CVS Health, other companies mandate coronavirus shots after FDA grants full approval to Pfizer vaccine

Aug. 25, 2021 Updated Wed., Aug. 25, 2021 at 12:20 p.m.

A pharmacy technician loads a syringe with Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine at a mass vaccination site at the Portland Expo in Portland, Maine, on March 2.  (Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press)
A pharmacy technician loads a syringe with Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine at a mass vaccination site at the Portland Expo in Portland, Maine, on March 2. (Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press)
By Jena McGregor Washington Post

A number of U.S. companies are announcing new coronavirus vaccine mandates for their employees or expanding vaccine requirements after the Food and Drug Administration issued full approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

CVS Health, which owns a chain of nearly 10,000 retail pharmacies, as well as the health insurer Aetna and pharmacy benefits manager CVS Caremark, said it will require nurses, care managers and all corporate staff to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 31 and all pharmacists working in its retail stores to be vaccinated by Nov. 30.

“We took this step because of the spread of the delta variant and the dramatic rise in cases among the unvaccinated,” CVS Health spokesman Michael DeAngelis said in an email. “However, the FDA approval underscores the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness, and we are pleased that it may help reassure any employees who have been hesitant to get vaccinated.”

The Walt Disney Co. will also require unionized employees working at Walt Disney World in Florida to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 22 under a deal reached Monday with a union coalition, according to a report by the Associated Press.

The move came several weeks after Disney announced a vaccine mandate for all salaried and nonunion hourly employees in the United States. An email to Disney was not immediately returned.

Oil and gas company Chevron said in an emailed statement Monday it was requiring expatriate employees, workers traveling abroad, Gulf of Mexico offshore workforce and some onshore support personnel to be vaccinated. The company said its decision predates the FDA approval.

As the delta variant surged, scuttling workplace reopening plans, a number of employers had already begun to impose vaccine mandates – even before the FDA decision on full approval of the Pfizer vaccine.

Those moves accelerated over the summer as the federal government announced workers would have to get a coronavirus vaccine or comply with regular testing, mandatory masking and other restrictions. In remarks made Monday at the White House, President Joe Biden urged companies to step up vaccine requirements.

“If you’re a business leader, a nonprofit leader, a state or local leader who has been waiting for full FDA approval to require vaccinations, I call on you now to do that – require it. Do what I did last month and require your employees to get vaccinated or face strict requirements,” Biden said.

Lawyers who work with businesses said they anticipate more companies will now add mandates. “Legally, an employer was allowed to mandate a vaccine even when it was only authorized under the emergency use authorization,” said Sharon Perley Masling, a partner at Morgan Lewis and former senior counsel to a commissioner at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

But full approval may make some more comfortable, Masling said. “I think there were some employers who were more hesitant to require employees to vaccinate themselves with a vaccine that had not received full approval. … I think this will put those employers at ease.”

Others agreed more companies would follow suit. “I think it is going to have a meaningful impact,” said Brett Coburn, a labor and employment lawyer with Alston & Bird in Atlanta. “Some employers may decide (to mandate) for the first time; others may speed it up,” Coburn said.

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