ARLINGTON, Va. — The Biden administration’s announcement of vaccine mandates for businesses raises serious questions for retailers and supplier companies, two trade associations said on Friday.
“The announcement yesterday by President Biden of an employer mandate on vaccinations and testing for employees, including fines and penalties for businesses that fail to comply, raises a tremendous number of questions including when the rules will be released; how long businesses have to get their full workforces vaccinated before fines are levied; availability of COVID-19 tests; and whether pharmacies that accept Medicare or Medicaid are covered under the requirement for federally funded health care settings, to name a few,” said Jennifer Hatcher, FMI chief public policy officer and senior vice president. “We continue to review the outline the Biden administration announced and are collecting a list of critical questions that must be answered in order to even understand how to comply with this mandate within the framework of existing laws and regulations including privacy, employment discrimination and leave requirements. There are simply more questions than answers at this point.”
The Consumer Brands Association also raised concerns about the Biden’s COVID-19 Action Plan, which requires all companies with 100 or more employees to ensure that their workers are vaccinated or tested weekly.
“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, government has often failed to implement well-intentioned policy,” CBA president and CEO Geoff Freeman said in a statement, citing a survey of CPG companies conducted last summer in which an overwhelming majority (64%) of respondents said that conflicting guidance from federal, state and local governments was problematic for their business. “President Biden’s announcement prompts critical questions that require immediate clarification. As with other mandates, the devil is in the details. Without additional clarification for the business community, employee anxieties and questions will multiply.
“Our country’s ability to increase vaccination rates hinges on federal agencies offering clear, detailed and timely guidance in hours, not weeks. Across the federal government, we will need to see a degree of coordination, rapid response and private sector engagement to be successful. We look forward to working with the administration to increase vaccination rates of essential workers throughout the country.”
Both organizations said they supported the promotion of vaccines.
“The consumer packaged goods industry supports efforts to vaccinate as many Americans as possible,” Freeman said. “Our industry has undertaken exhaustive efforts to educate employees about the effectiveness of vaccines and grow vaccination rates.”
Hatcher said FMI and its members have been committed to encouraging food industry employees to receive the vaccines since they first became available, but “also respected their right to make choices about their own individual health needs and those of their families.”
“More than 10,000 of our member companies are providing vaccines in their supermarket pharmacies, making them a safe, convenient location for vaccinations for all Americans. Recent FMI research shows 70% of consumers are very likely or definitely would receive COVID-19 vaccines at their supermarket pharmacy, and our industry stands ready to meet this public health need.”