Half of American workers are in favour of vaccine requirements at their workplaces, according to a new poll.
It comes at a time when such mandates are gaining traction in the United States following the federal government's full approval of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine.
The poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows that about 59 per cent of remote workers favour vaccine requirements in their own workplaces, compared with 47 per cent of those who are currently working in person. About one-quarter of workers — in person and remote — are opposed.
The sentiment is similar for workplace mask mandates, with 50 per cent of Americans working in person favouring them and 29 per cent opposed, while 59 per cent of remote workers are in favour.
About 6 in 10 college graduates, who are more likely to have jobs that can be done remotely, support both mask and vaccine mandates at their workplaces, compared with about 4 in 10 workers without college degrees.
Private companies demand employee vaccination
So far, many vaccine requirements are coming from private companies with employees who have mostly been able to work from home during the pandemic.
The companies, including major tech companies and investment banks, have workforces that are already largely vaccinated and consider the requirement a key step toward eventually reopening offices.
Goldman Sachs joined that trend Tuesday, telling employees in a memo that anyone who enters its US offices must be fully vaccinated starting September 7.
Other industries have taken even more rigorous steps to encourage vaccinations.
Delta Airlines announced on Wednesday that it will begin charging unvaccinated workers an additional $200 (€180) per month in health insurance premiums from November 1, to cover rising costs associated with COVID-19.
Fears of acute labour shortages
In contrast, few companies that rely on hourly service workers have imposed vaccine mandates because the companies are concerned about losing staff at a time of acute labour shortages and turnover.
Exceptions include food processing giant Tyson Foods and Walt Disney World, which reached a deal this week with its unions to require all workers at its theme park in Orlando, Florida, to be vaccinated.
The AP-NORC poll was conducted before the FDA granted full approval of Pfizer's vaccine, which some experts and employers are hoping will persuade more people to get the shot and support mandates.
Drugstore chain CVS said this week that pharmacists, nurses and other workers who have contact with patients will have to be inoculated, but the company stopped short of requiring the vaccine for other employees such as cashiers.
The AP-NORC poll showed high support for vaccine mandates among those who say they work in person in a health care setting, with 70 per cent approving of vaccine requirements at their workplace.
Opinions differ along racial lines
The poll of 1,729 adults conducted between August 12 and August 16, also showed divisions along racial lines.
Seventy-three per cent of Black workers and 59 per cent of Hispanic workers — who are more likely than white workers to work in front-line jobs — support mask mandates at their workplaces, compared with 42 per cent of white workers. In addition, 53 per cent of Black and Hispanic workers support vaccine mandates at their workplaces, as do 44 per cent of white workers.
Despite mixed support for mandates among in-person employees, 71 per cent of those workers said they themselves are vaccinated.
Many large retailers, grocery store chains, food manufacturers and other companies have aggressively encouraged vaccinations with bonuses, time off, information campaigns and on-site vaccination access.