President Biden‘s sweeping new COVID-19 vaccine mandates contradict his 2020 campaign promise that he wouldn’t make the shots mandatory.
During an October town hall event in Philadelphia, Mr. Biden rejected the idea of vaccine mandates when asked about it.
“You can’t say everyone has to do this,” Mr. Biden said of the vaccine, adding that he would encourage state and local leaders to decide if mandates were necessary.
He suggested handling COVID-19 vaccines the way the measles vaccine is handled. There is no federal measles vaccine mandate but most states require a child to get the shot before they attend school.
After he won the election, Mr. Biden reiterated that he would not force Americans to get the shot.
“I don’t think it should be mandatory. I wouldn’t demand it to be mandatory,” he said at a news conference in Wilmington, Delaware. “Just like I don’t think masks have to be made mandatory nationwide.”
Mr. Biden added, “I’ll do everything in my power as president of the United States to encourage people to do the right thing and when they do it, demonstrate that it matters.”
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Friday the COVID-19 landscape had changed since the president made those promises last year.
“We didn’t anticipate that once the vaccine was readily, widely available and free to the public across the country that there would be such opposition to it, especially since it was approved under the former president, a Republican president,” she said.
Ms. Psaki also said the administration didn’t anticipate how many people were waiting for FDA approval before taking a vaccine and that the deadly delta variant would be highly transmissible.
“We’ve always been open to taking steps to save more lives and protect more people and that’s exactly what yesterday’s announcement is a reflection of,” she continued.
The president isn’t the only administration official who promised not to impose vaccine mandates.
Ms. Psaki told reporters twice this summer that a vaccine mandate “was not the federal government’s role.”
“The government is not now nor will we be supporting a system that requires Americans to carry a credential,” Ms. Psaki told reporters in July. “There will be no federal vaccinations database and no federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential.”
Centers for Disease Control Director Rochelle Walensky also said there would be “no federal mandate.”
“To clarify: There will be no nationwide mandate. I was referring to mandates by private institutions and portions of the federal government,” she wrote on Twitter in July. “There will be no federal mandate.”
On Thursday, Mr. Biden announced a series of new COVID-19 vaccine mandates that would force roughly 100 million Americans to get the shot or risk losing their job.
The new rules include a vaccine mandate for federal workers and a requirement that companies with more than 100 employees mandate workers get vaccines or get tested once a week. Companies that do not comply face a fine of $14,000 per violation.
Mr. Biden also announced vaccination requirements for all federal employees and contractors at schools on military bases, staffs of Head Start programs and other federal education programs. He also ordered all healthcare providers that accept Medicare and Medicaid to receive the vaccine.
The president argued that mandates are now necessary to battle the COVID-19 delta variant as hospitalizations and deaths continue to climb.