US President Joe Biden on Thursday announced sweeping measures to push two-thirds of American workers to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Biden said he would order all executive branch employees, federal contractors and millions of health-care workers to be given shots, and that those who refuse would face disciplinary measures.
The administration will also issue rules requiring private employers to mandate vaccines or testing, he added.
Refusal of tens of millions of Americans to get vaccinated even in the face of a resurgent COVID-19 pandemic driven by the Delta variant has forced the president to take expansive action.
Biden criticised the 25 per cent of adults who have so far not been inoculated.
“My message to unvaccinated Americans is this: What more is there to wait for? What more do you need to see?” he said. “We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin. And your refusal has cost all of us, so please, do the right thing.”
The pandemic has so far claimed 650,000 lives in the US.
Under the new plan, the Department of Labor will issue emergency regulation requiring companies with 100 or more employees to require staff to be vaccinated or tested weekly, and to give paid time off to get inoculated.
Employers could face fines of nearly $14,000 per violation, Bloomberg quoted one official as saying. It is expected to take effect in the coming weeks, the official said.
“This is not about freedom or personal choice,” Biden said.
“It’s about protecting yourself and those around you. The people you work with. The people you care about, the people you love. My job as president is to protect all Americans,” Biden said.
The US recorded 176,000 new cases on Wednesday, far above the roughly 10,000 a day seen in June, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Another 2,143 people in the US died from the virus on Wednesday.