Dec 5, 2021 - Health

Vaccine mandates lose steam in the U.S. while Europe doubles down

Illustration of two direction signs shaped like syringes pointing in different directions

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

European countries are doubling down on pressure campaigns to get people vaccinated just as Republicans continue to wage war — often successfully — against vaccine mandates in the U.S.

Why it matters: The starkly different approaches create a sharp contrast between the regions' approaches to vaccination, even as the Omicron variant rapidly spreads around the world.

Driving the news: President Biden's federal vaccine mandates are getting pummeled in court.

  • The federal vaccine mandate for health care workers was paused this week by a federal judge in Louisiana. A separate federal mandate that applies to all employees of businesses with more than 100 workers is also paused pending court review.
  • Other courts have suspended the administration's mandates for health care workers and federal contractors in certain states.

By the numbers: Only 60% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, per the CDC.

  • When implemented, vaccine mandates often drive up vaccination rates.

The other side: Germany announced this week that unvaccinated people will not be allowed in nonessential shops or cultural and recreational venues, AP reports.

  • France, Italy and Austria have also announced that unvaccinated people will be largely prohibited from visiting bars, restaurants and arts, sports and entertainment venues, the Wall Street Journal reports.
  • In France, the unvaccinated must present a negative test — which the government no longer subsidizes — taken within the previous three days to access such venues.
  • Other countries have taken more targeted approaches. In Greece, only people older than 60 are required to be vaccinated against COVID, per the WSJ.

The bottom line: Vaccines work very well at keeping people alive even if they do become infected with the coronavirus, and many experts expect them to remain effective against severe disease even with Omicron.

  • That makes getting vaccination rates up imperative for public health, but only one of the world's most developed regions appears committed to doing that by using sticks when carrots have failed.
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