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Biden calls on private companies to issue vaccine requirements

Some public health experts had hoped the FDA's approval of the Pfizer vaccine could make it easier for private employers to require employees to get vaccinated.

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Monday urged private companies to require their employees to get the Covid-19 vaccination, hours after the Food and Drug Administration granted full approval to Pfizer-BioNTech's two-dose vaccine for people ages 16 and up.

Speaking at the White House, Biden said he was calling on companies to "step up the vaccine requirements that will reach millions more people."

The president had previously voiced his support for vaccine requirements in workplaces, but his message Monday marked a more direct appeal to private employers to play a bigger role in boosting the vaccination rate in the U.S.

"If you're a business leader, a nonprofit leader, a state or local leader who has been waiting on full FDA approval to require vaccinations, I call on you now to do that," Biden said. "Require it."

Approximately 70 percent of eligible Americans have received at least one shot, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Around 60 percent are fully vaccinated.

Some public health experts had argued full FDA approval would make it easier for private employers to require vaccines in their workplaces. Some also hoped it would help convince hesitant people to get the shot.

The Pfizer vaccine is the first Covid vaccine to get full approval from the FDA.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Monday that the Defense Department would be issuing new guidance mandating military members get vaccinated.

At the end of July, Biden announced that federal employees would be required to get vaccinated or get tested regularly for Covid, wear a mask and practice social distancing in their workplace. Some private companies quickly issued similar requirements for their employees, but such moves were met with resistance from Republican state legislatures and governors.

Private businesses are allowed to require vaccinations under the protection of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Biden has said he lacks the power to issue a nationwide vaccine mandate.

Biden said Monday the FDA's full approval was the "gold standard" and called it an "important moment in our fight against the pandemic."

"The moment you’ve been waiting for is here," Biden said. "It's time for you to go get your vaccination."