IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

The latest evidence says vaccine requirements work as intended

The White House's critics have said vaccine requirements don't work. There's a growing body of evidence that suggests they're wrong.


It was three weeks ago when President Joe Biden unveiled an ambitious new policy on Covid-19 vaccinations, affecting tens of millions of American workers. Among the questions raised by skeptics was whether vaccine requirements are effective.

The White House's critics, of course, said requirements don't work. There's a growing body of evidence that suggests they're wrong. A Washington Post analysis explained this morning:

Many of these mandates were announced this summer and are reaching deadlines, meaning they provide a good barometer for how effective the mandates are. United Airlines was one of the first big companies to adopt a mandate, and it announced this week that 98.5 percent of employees have been vaccinated.

In a memo to United employees last week, the company pointed to the evidence and said, "Vaccine requirements work."

The evidence appears to bolster the point. The Post's analysis included an impressive list of data from hospital systems, "where there has been strong compliance" in response to vaccine requirements. The same piece added, "Tyson Foods announced a vaccine mandate in early August. Since then, its vaccination rate has gone from 50 percent to 80 percent, with the deadline still more than a month away.

There's no shortage of related reports. In the state of Washington, Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee announced a vaccine requirement for state workers, at which point the weekly vaccination rate jumped 34 percent. Around the same time, Fox News reported that more than 90 percent of its full-time works reported that they were fully vaccinated after the company required employees to report their vaccination status or undergo regular testing.

The Defense Department, which recently announced that vaccinations are required, said that 95 percent of the military has now had at least one shot.

To be sure, there are exceptions. Some communities are facing shortages in which key workers — including those who work with children — would rather lose their jobs than do the responsible thing.

But by and large, the evidence is in line with both common sense and American history: When people are told their careers are at risk if they refuse to get vaccinated, they'll grudgingly do the right thing, which in turn helps everyone.

A recent FiveThirtyEight piece noted that vaccine requirements can be difficult to implement, but the policies are effective, legal, and "a really powerful public health tool."

Or as the Post's analysis concluded, "It might make people resent being forced to do something they don't want to or hadn't yet decided to do. But the evidence also increasingly suggests that it spurs that vast majority of the resistant ultimately to comply, hard feelings or not."