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September 15, 2021
Employer group demands clarity on vaccination mandate

In a September 13 letter to President Joe Biden, the Consumer Brands Association called for immediate clarification on the president’s COVID-19 response plan, especially plans for employers to require vaccination or weekly testing of their employees.

“Our country’s ability to increase vaccination rates hinges on federal agencies offering clear, detailed, and timely guidance in hours, not weeks,” Geoff Freeman, Consumer Brands president and CEO, said in a September 9 statement issued after the White House unveiled the president’s COVID-19 plan.

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, government has often failed to implement well-intentioned policy,” Freeman continued. “Without additional clarification for the business community, employee anxieties and questions will multiply.”

Federal guidance has lagged initial announcements and often conflicted with state and local requirements over the course of the pandemic, according to the group.

The Consumer Brands Association represents nearly 2,000 consumer product goods brands, including makers of food and beverage, household, and personal care products.

On September 9, Biden unveiled a national strategy to combat the COVID-19 pandemic that included Executive Orders requiring vaccination for federal employees and contractors and an announcement that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) would soon issue an emergency temporary standard (ETS) requiring employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their employees are vaccinated against COVID-19 or provide weekly negative tests.

Other elements of the strategy include a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) requirement for COVID-19 vaccinations for workers in healthcare settings that receive Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement; booster shots of approved vaccines for those already vaccinated; a vaccination requirement for teachers and staff in Bureau of Indian Education-operated schools, Department of Defense schools, and Head Start programs; the doubling of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) fines for passengers who refuse to wear face coverings; a small business loan program; additional shipments of monoclonal antibody treatments; and the deployment of additional federal COVID-19 Surge Response Teams.

The Consumer Brands Association’s questions were focused on details of a vaccination ETS covering private sector employers. The group asked for details of the requirements, such as:

  • When will the requirements be formally issued, and what is the timeline for compliance?
  • How does this mandate impact locations with collective bargaining agreements?
  • Will federal requirements preempt existing state-imposed obligations, and will they supersede state expense reimbursement statutes?
  • Must an employee be fully vaccinated to work, and how will vaccine requirements address natural immunity? Will individuals who have contracted and recovered from COVID-19 be required to be vaccinated or submit to testing?
  • Will the requirements only apply to vaccines that are fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)?
  • Does the government have plans to centralize vaccination tracking, or is it employers’ responsibility to retain vaccination records?
  • What is considered suitable documentation of a negative test result, and how long will documentation of test results need to be held?
  • Is the company or employee responsible for securing and paying for testing if the employer chooses not to vaccinate?

Only the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has received full FDA approval. The Johnson & Johnson/Janssen and Moderna vaccines are administered under Emergency Use Authorizations (EUAs).

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