Biden declares sweeping new vaccine mandate: 'This is not about freedom'

President Biden delivers remarks on his plan to combat the delta variant, boost coronavirus vaccinations

President Joe Biden formally announced his plan to force companies with more than 100 employees to vaccinate workers against the coronavirus or test them weekly and dismissed concerns about encroaching on personal freedoms. 

“This is not about freedom or personal choice,” Biden said during a Thursday address to the nation. “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.”

In his speech, Biden expressed frustration with unvaccinated Americans multiple times and said that he “understands” the “anger” that the vaccinated have against those who have not taken the vaccine.

“We’ve been patient but our patience is wearing thin and your refusal has cost all of us,” Biden told the tens of millions of unvaccinated people in the country. 

“Many of us are frustrated with the nearly 80 million Americans who are still not vaccinated, even though the vaccine is safe, effective and free,” Biden added. “You might be confused about what is true and what is false about COVID-19.”

The president also pointed a finger at Republican officials across the country who have opposed mask and vaccine mandates.

“We have the tools to combat COVID-19, and a distinct minority of Americans, supported by a distinct minority of elected officials, are keeping us from turning the corner,” Biden said. “These pandemic politics are making people sick, causing unvaccinated people to die.”

The president urged parents of children 12 and order to get vaccinated.

“They get vaccinated for a lot of things. That’s it. Get them vaccinated.”

Biden officially confirmed that he has instructed the Department of Labor to mandate employers with over 100 workers to either vaccinate them or force them to test for the virus weekly. 

The rule could affect up to 100 million workers and will also levy substantial fines, up to $14,000 per infraction, against companies that refuse to comply. 

In addition to the vaccination requirements, Biden is moving to double federal fines for airline passengers who refuse to wear masks on flights or to maintain face-covering requirements on federal property in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

The rule would also require that large companies provide paid time off for vaccination.

Associated Press contributed to this report 

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