The coronavirus pandemic has exposed economic and social upheaval around the world, but Covid-19 vaccines have made the gap even wider: while some poor countries are asking for doses to save their populations, some rich countries are inundated with gunfire and lack of takers.
For example, a handful of US states have tried to incentivize more people to be vaccinated. But in Moscow, as Covid hospital admissions spiked this week, the city government went tougher, ordering vaccinations for many workers in public jobs.
Several other governments have also tried to require vaccines. A province in Pakistan has announced that it will cut the salaries of officials who have not been vaccinated starting next month. And the UK, which is seeing an increase attributable to the spread of the Delta variant of the virus, is considering making syringes mandatory for all healthcare workers.
The Moscow Times quoted the city’s mayor Sergei S. Sobyanin as saying on Wednesday, “When you go out and come into contact with other people, you are an accomplice in the epidemiological process – a chain in the link that is spreading this dangerous virus . “The mandate he announced focuses on education, entertainment, healthcare and hospitality and will continue until at least 60 percent of employees are vaccinated, the newspaper reported.
In the UK, officials said vaccinating health workers would help stop the virus from spreading in hospitals. Nadhim Zahawi, the UK’s vaccines minister, said there was a precedent for such a requirement. “Of course, surgeons are vaccinated against hepatitis B so we definitely think about it,” he told Sky News last month.
Many universities in the United States now require that at least some students and employees be vaccinated, and federal officials have repeatedly made it clear that most companies with 15 or more employees have the right to require workers to be vaccinated.
But the need for vaccines continues to meet with resistance from some.
In 15 American states, not a single college had announced any type of vaccine requirement until last month. Days ago, 178 Houston Methodist Hospital employees who refused to receive a coronavirus injection were suspended. And on Saturday, protesters are expected at the New York State Bar Association offices in Albany, where officials will discuss a report recommending prescribing a coronavirus vaccine for all New Yorkers unless doctors exempt them.
But for the undecided, persuaded, incentives to get the vaccine remain common: there are lotteries in California, college scholarships in New York state, and free drinks in New Jersey.
The freebies have spurred some to action. This week, both New York and California announced that they were lifting virtually all coronavirus restrictions on businesses and social gatherings.