Biden, Awaiting an OSHA Rule, Urges Companies to Require Vaccinations

“I know a couple big companies that are ready to hit send on the email to all employees, and they’re waiting for this thing to come out,” said Joseph Allen, an associate professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health who advises companies on Covid-19 strategies. “If they’re going to spend the next two months getting the wording absolutely 100 percent on the rule-making, it defeats the purpose.”

What to Know About Covid-19 Booster Shots

The F.D.A. authorized booster shots for a select group of people who received their second doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at least six months before. That group includes: vaccine recipients who are 65 or older or who live in long-term care facilities; adults who are at high risk of severe Covid-19 because of an underlying medical condition; health care workers and others whose jobs put them at risk. People with weakened immune systems are eligible for a third dose of either Pfizer or Moderna four weeks after the second shot.

The C.D.C. has said the conditions that qualify a person for a booster shot include: hypertension and heart disease; diabetes or obesity; cancer or blood disorders; weakened immune system; chronic lung, kidney or liver disease; dementia and certain disabilities. Pregnant women and current and former smokers are also eligible.

The F.D.A. authorized boosters for workers whose jobs put them at high risk of exposure to potentially infectious people. The C.D.C. says that group includes: emergency medical workers; education workers; food and agriculture workers; manufacturing workers; corrections workers; U.S. Postal Service workers; public transit workers; grocery store workers.

It is not recommended. For now, Pfizer vaccine recipients are advised to get a Pfizer booster shot, and Moderna and Johnson & Johnson recipients should wait until booster doses from those manufacturers are approved.

Yes. The C.D.C. says the Covid vaccine may be administered without regard to the timing of other vaccines, and many pharmacy sites are allowing people to schedule a flu shot at the same time as a booster dose.

An OSHA rule would take part of the pressure off employers by giving them clear directives, experts say, but the agency must first set standards that pass legal muster.

Several Republican governors have said that they will challenge a formalized vaccine mandate. Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas said in September that his state was “already working to halt this power grab.” Gov. Mike Parson of Missouri has called the mandate “potentially dangerous” for working families. Mark Brnovich, the Republican attorney general of Arizona, filed a lawsuit against the OSHA rule and has threatened that attorneys general in 23 other states may follow suit.

“I know the vaccination requirements are tough medicine,” Mr. Biden said on Thursday, addressing some of the criticism. “Unpopular with some. Politics for others. But they’re lifesaving. They’re game-changing for our country.”

Experts said that legal challenges to the rule were all but assured, but precedent is most likely on Mr. Biden’s side. In the past 20 years, “every standard that has been challenged in court has been upheld by federal judges,” David Michaels, a professor at the George Washington University School of Public Health who was a head of OSHA during the Obama administration, said in an interview.

OSHA also has the authority to quickly issue a rule, known as an emergency temporary standard, if it can show that workers are exposed to grave danger and that the rule is necessary to address it. The rule must also be feasible for employers to enforce.

The rule-making process, overseen by about a dozen officials at the agency and a team of lawyers, includes a number of rigorous, time-consuming steps to gird against legal challenges. Officials were given only about a week’s notice before Mr. Biden’s announcement, according to an official familiar with the directive.