Vaccine Mandate + Labor Shortage = ?

Row Covid-19 or Coronavirus vaccine flasks on white background

OSHA’s vaccine mandate has brought forth mixed reactions. The Natural Products Association (NPA) hosted a seminar on the mandate, titled Implications of OSHA and CMS Rules, wherein experts provided an overview.

The mandate, per NPA, requires employers to establish, implement, and enforce a mandatory vaccination policy—all new and existing employees need to be fully vaccinated, unless they have medical contraindications. The exception: Mandatory vaccination is not required if an employer has a written policy permitting each employee to choose between vaccination or using a face covering and providing proof of regular testing. Employees are entitled to up to four hours paid time for each primary vaccination dose, including travel time, and a reasonable amount of paid sick leave to recover from any side effects experienced. Employees will be presumed unvaccinated unless they provide acceptable proof. Employers are required to preserve that proof, and maintain a roster of vaccination status while the emergency temporary standard (ETS) is in place.

NPA further put together an explanation of the political atmosphere, noting that 28 states had, at the time, filed lawsuits against the mandate, and 39 Republican senators had announced that they would use a joint resolution of disapproval to push to nullify the regulations. The rule has “largely remained partisan,” NPA added. Plus, per NPA, there’s a question of who could even enforce this rule: While OSHA is tasked with ensuring workplace safety, DHHS is the department tasked with determining the appropriate use of vaccines, and the CDC is responsible for recommending who should receive the vaccines.

A major question NPA raised: Will this magnify current worker shortages and supply chain issues? The association has since released a statement, quoting Daniel Fabricant, Ph.D., President and CEO of NPA, as saying:

“We are sounding the alarm today because we have serious concerns this extreme regulation imposes an unrealistic timeline and significant economic burden on businesses across the United States facing historic labor challenges. Vaccine and testing mandates will only slow delivery times and drive-up costs for consumers, retailers and manufacturers and damage the ability to keep products on store shelves that consumers have relied on to stay healthy for the past 20 months. We don’t need the ETS grinch during the holidays when the country is already plagued by concerns of rising inflation and product availability.”

NPA has submitted a petition to the U.S. Court of Appeals, asking the Court to declare the mandate unlawful.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has placed the ETS on temporary hold. FMI’s President and CEO Leslie Sarasin released a statement in support: “FMI is pleased the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay on OSHA’s ETS for vaccination and testing. In pausing the ETS, the Court’s action today gives us additional time to seek clarity on elements of concern, including the availability of sufficient testing capacity and exemptions for workers with limited contact with others, such as truck drivers and warehouse workers. FMI remains concerned with the potentially harmful impact the ETS will have on American consumers and the food supply chain if implemented, as written, during the busiest grocery shopping season of the year. FMI remains committed to working with OSHA to encourage and facilitate vaccinations, continue protecting consumers and our workers, and ensure U.S. supply chains remain up and running.”

For more on labor shortages, read related coverage here and find out how one retailer is dealing here.