The Federal Reserve Bank in Minneapolis says it will require its 1,100 workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of August as a condition of employment.
Neel Kashkari, president and CEO of the Minneapolis Fed, said the policy makes sense because the bank is pivoting from fully remote efforts to office-based collaboration and work that requires public interaction.
“While we will enjoy more flexibility in where we work going forward, we are not going to be a fully remote institution. In order to fulfill our public-service mission, we need more face-to-face contact than remote work allows, but there is no way for us to bring a critical mass of our staff back into our facilities and maintain social distancing. Hence, we need our employees to be vaccinated,” Mr. Kashkari wrote in a memo posted Wednesday.
He said there will be exemptions for workers who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons or “sincerely held” religious beliefs. The policy will apply to new hires.
The decision makes the Minneapolis Fed the latest employer to jump into the debate around vaccine mandates.
Many universities are requiring vaccinations for students and staff before the fall semester, while a requirement at Houston Methodist Hospital in Texas sparked protests and a lawsuit from holdouts. A judge last month sided with the hospital in dismissing a lawsuit from 117 employees who objected to the mandate.
Some Republican governors have banned employers and public institutions from requiring proof of vaccination, dubbing it government overreach that could result in unequal treatment within society.
Turning Point USA, a conservative group for youth that supports former President Trump, launched a “No Forced Vax” campaign Thursday to combat university and school mandates that bar unvaccinated persons from campus. The campaign will feature digital campaigns and local gatherings to resist mandates.
“I’m not anti-COVID vaccination, and I’m not pro-COVID vaccination — I’m COVID vaccine-agnostic,” founder and President Charlie Kirk said. “But I am 100% against mandating this vaccination. At its core, this issue is not about the vaccine. This is about freedom and information.”
The Biden administration has studiously avoided talk of mandates at the federal level, reasoning it would be counterproductive to strong-arm people who say they are resistant to vaccines partly because they don’t trust the government.
Instead, the White House is enlisting community voices and doctors who can answer questions people have about how the vaccines were developed and possible side effects, hoping it will increase rates bit-by-bit as the campaign begins to stall out.
Less than half of the U.S. population — 48% — is fully vaccinated, though many children remain ineligible and adolescents and teens only recently got the chance to get vaccinated.
Mr. Kashkari said 82% of the Minneapolis Fed workforce has been vaccinated.
“Most of the remaining 18 percent have not told us their vaccination plans, and a small percentage have indicated they do not plan to get vaccinated,” he said. “With so many of our employees voluntarily doing their part to keep us safe, asking our remaining colleagues to also do their part just makes sense. While some staff may be unhappy with this new requirement, we believe most will appreciate the actions we are taking on our collective behalf.”
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