Abdication of Leadership: Toothless Mandates – A Statement by Vivent Health President and CEO Mike Gifford
Welcome news arrived recently with full FDA approval of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine. The final word is in—it is safe, it is effective, it saves lives. Period.
We are pleased that the FDA took this important action which clears away all obstacles for corporations to join Vivent Health, as we did in October 2020, and mandate vaccines for all staff.
At Vivent Health, our mission to rid the world of the still deadly—and worsening—HIV epidemic has always been based on the best science and research. That same scientific rigor also guided the development of our vaccine mandate nine months ago and it now must guide private companies and every level of government to require vaccines. Why? Science and research give us the undisputable answer: Covid-19 vaccines can and will save millions of lives here and across the globe.
The difficulty with most vaccine mandates is the substantial loopholes and exceptions that make them toothless. Let me be clear, we’re not referring to widely and legally accepted exceptions for medical and religious reasons. Instead, these toothless mandates serve up half measures; allowing an alternative to vaccination like the minor nuisance of weekly Covid-19 testing, requiring only new employees to be vaccinated but not requiring vaccination among current employees, or requiring vaccinations for U.S.-based employees but not international ones. Additionally, the lotteries, financial incentives and other gimmicks to encourage or coerce vaccinations are clearly not mandates and have been proven to be largely ineffective.
As a nation, we’ve had more than a year to consider this decision. The time for deliberation is far past us. If the barrier to implementing a strong mandate is concern over potential liability, companies need look no further than the declarative statements issued by both the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the federal courts. In May, the EEOC updated its guidelines to state “Federal EEO laws do not prevent an employer from requiring all employees physically entering the workplace to be vaccinated for Covid-19, so long as employers comply with the reasonable accommodation provisions of the ADA and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other EEO considerations.”
And, in dismissing a lawsuit brought by employees of Houston Methodist over that health care provider’s vaccination mandate, US District Judge Lynn N. Hughes wrote “This is not coercion. Methodist is trying to do their business of saving lives … It is a choice made to keep staff, patients and their families safe.”
Private and public sector leaders are failing in their leadership. With the Delta variant here, and Gamma and Lambda lurking in the background, now is the time to act. Our political leaders and our corporate CEOs must do the right thing and implement mandates with real teeth. Our health, our financial wellbeing and just possibly our lives depend on it.