Biden says vaccine requirements bringing COVID cases down, economy up
President comes to Chicago to tout benefits of controversial mandates
US President Joe Biden came to a sprawling construction site near Chicago on Thursday to tout a new White House report that says vaccine requirements are now showing the benefits he has promised in the last few months.
Biden spoke at a data center under construction by a company run by a Democratic party donor that was an early adopter of vaccine requirements.
The White House started collecting data after Biden announced during the summer that COVID-19 vaccination would be required in the federal government and the military, and then last month, when he required the same of all US businesses with more than 100 employees. Most health care workers are also required to get the shot.
The report says that since vaccine requirements were rolled out in the summer, the rate of vaccination has jumped by 20 percentage points -- to reach a vaccination rate of over 90% -- wherever the vaccine is required.
Biden said that 95 million Americans were unvaccinated in the summer, and today, that number has been reduced to 67 million, or about 25% of those who are still eligible to get the shot. He also said increased vaccinations were leading to a double-digit drop in the percentage of the COVID infection rate over the last month, including a 20% drop in US hospitalizations.
"It wasn't my first instinct" to require vaccinations, Biden said in his speech, but he said a slowing vaccination rate during the summer forced his hand. He pointed to some hospitals that are so overwhelmed with COVID patients, mostly those who are unvaccinated, that patients with other ailments are having trouble getting treated.
Biden acknowledged that some Americans are still angry over vaccine requirements, but he sounded mystified by it, given that most Americans are already vaccinated against a host of other diseases, including measles and polio.
"When you see headlines and reports of mass firings and hundreds of people losing their jobs [for refusing the vaccine], look at the bigger story," he said.
Biden said many more companies are now being inspired to require vaccines.
"Even -- and this is something I get a kick out of -- Fox News," he said to applause from the audience, pointing out that the TV news network that is mostly critical of him and his vaccine requirements has a stringent vaccine mandate of its own.
Biden also pointed to the report's conclusion that as the vaccine rate goes up, the economy is improving, with more people feeling comfortable about going back to in-person work and heading back to restaurants and movies.
He pointed to Wall Street investment firms and economists who are touting the vaccine requirements as a form of economic stimulus.
"Yes, some object [to vaccine mandates]," Biden said, "and some object very strenuously, and some are making a political statement out of this issue. But a strong bipartisan majority of Americans support vaccinations. They know this isn't about politics, it's about life and death."
He called on more businesses that do not fall under the government's vaccine mandate to require the vaccine for their workers anyway.
"We have a plan, we have the tools," he said. "We just have to finish the job. For God's sake, get vaccinated. We can do this."
The death toll in the US from COVID-19 stands at nearly 710,000, with over 44 million cases, according to a running tally by US-based Johns Hopkins University.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the total number of those vaccinated is 216 million, or 76% of those who are eligible.
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