Biden pushes 'lifesaving' vaccination mandates during Chicago trip

Also on Thursday, Pfizer seeks US authorisation of Covid-19 vaccine for children aged 5-11

US President Joe Biden stands before delivering remarks on the importance of Covid-19 vaccine requirements, during his visit at a Clayco construction site, in Elk Grove Village, Illinois, US, on October 7, 2021. Reuters
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US President Joe Biden escalated his campaign to pressure private employers into imposing coronavirus vaccination mandates on Thursday, saying immunisations would save lives and boost the economy.

“I’m calling on more employers to act,” Mr Biden said during remarks on a trip to a suburban town outside Chicago, Illinois.

“My message is require your employees to get vaccinated. With vaccinations, we’re going to beat this pandemic.”

Mr Biden is seeking to increase the vaccination rate as public approval of his handling of the pandemic has been falling.

"Look, I know that vaccination requirements are tough medicine. Unpopular to some, politics for others, but they're lifesaving, they're game changing for our country."
President Joe Biden

The president said his administration would soon issue regulations to implement his month-old plan that requires businesses with more than 100 employees be fully vaccinated or face weekly testing.

The majority of the nation is already vaccinated and industry leaders mostly agree with the mandates for the safety of workers and the economy.

A growing number of places across the country, including Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City, are requiring proof of vaccination to enter various types of businesses and venues.

“We know there is no other way to beat the pandemic than to get the vast majority of Americans vaccinated,” Mr Biden said. “We’re still not there. We have to beat this thing.”

In recent weeks, infections in many parts of the country have started to decline as more people have received shots.

Mr Biden met with the CEO of United Airlines, Scott Kirby, whose company became the first US major carrier to impose such a vaccination requirement with no testing alternative. Less than 1 per cent have failed to comply and risk termination.

He also visited a construction site run by a company that's imposing a new vaccinate-or-test requirement.

"Look, I know that vaccination requirements are tough medicine. Unpopular to some, politics for others, but they're lifesaving, they're game-changing for our country."

Before Mr Biden’s trip, the White House released a report that found 3,500 US organisations already have a vaccine mandate, including 40 per cent of hospitals and 25 per cent of businesses, following his directive that federal workers and contractors be vaccinated and that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration draft regulations for testing requirements.

Earlier on Thursday, Pfizer and BioNTech SE have asked US regulators to approve the emergency use of their Covid-19 vaccine for children aged 5-11, the company announced.

That vaccine could be ready as early as November pending approval from federal regulatory health agencies, White House Covid-19 response co-ordinator Jeffrey Zients said.

The US Food and Drug Administration had previously scheduled an advisory committee to discuss data on the paediatric vaccine on October 26.

Dr Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious-disease doctor, has previously suggested emergency clearance could arrive by October 31.

The request for emergency authorisation comes as Covid-19 infections have soared in children, hitting their highest point in the pandemic in early September, according to data from the American Academy of Paediatrics.

Quick authorisation of the paediatric vaccine could help mitigate a potential surge of cases this autumn. The rise of Covid-19 cases fuelled by the highly contagious Delta variant has already disrupted classrooms across the US.

In a tweet, Pfizer said it is committed to working alongside the FDA "with the ultimate goal of helping protect children against this serious health threat."

In a large-scale trial last month, Pfizer said its vaccine is safe and effective for this age group.

One notable change is that Pfizer said children should be given a third of the dose the rest of the population receives. According to the company's research the 5- to 11-year-olds developed virus-fighting antibody levels just as strong as teens and young adults get from regular-strength shots after their second dose.

If the FDA votes in favour of Pfizer's vaccine for youngsters, then advisers to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention would vote whether to recommend the shot before the CDC makes a final decision.

The most populous US state, California, already said it will mandate the vaccine for school children.

The US last week surpassed 700,000 Covid-19 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Agencies contributed to this report

Updated: October 07, 2021, 10:13 PM