Biden’s Vaccination Requirement for Federal Workers Risks Making Women Second-Class Employees
President Biden is requiring all federal employees to either get the COVID-19 vaccine or comply with strict guidelines including: masking, social distancing, and undergoing weekly COVID-19 tests.
This will undoubtedly create two classes of federal workers. The vaccinated will be able to hold in-person meetings and work in-person without restrictions, eat together indoors, and participate in happy hours and other social networking events. Unvaccinated individuals will be forced to maintain distance from others, will likely work from home more, and risk being excluded from important meetings and decisions.
Inevitably, those who are unvaccinated will have fewer opportunities for professional growth than those who are vaccinated. I do not think this will happen intentionally or immediately; but the byproduct of Biden’s policy will be two classes of workers—the vaccinated and the unvaccinated. For example, social business events may begin to require proof of vaccination in order to attend. Which one of us hasn’t gotten a job recommendation or even a job offer as a result of this kind of networking? However, if these events begin to require proof of vaccination with no exemptions, the unvaccinated will end up losing out on opportunities vis-a-vis their vaccinated colleagues. In addition, there will inevitably be the question, “Why didn’t you get vaccinated?” This question in and of itself fosters discomfort and division in the workplace, and could even be illegal if that “why” reason involves a disability.
Because women face greater risks from the COVID-19 vaccine than men do, this mandate will no doubt disproportionately affect women, and risks turning women into second-class citizens in the federal workplace.
Women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant have been advised by personal doctors, health officials, and even the developers of the vaccines to carefully consider whether or not to receive the COVID-19 shot. Due to the newness of the COVID-19 vaccine, there simply isn’t data to support that the vaccine is safe for pregnant women and their developing children.
While the CDC is now pushing the safety of the COVID vaccine to pregnant women, that recommendation is not based on any long-term studies. In fact, no matter how widely accepted a certain medical procedure or vaccination is, that widespread acceptance should never supersede individual advice given by a doctor to a particular patient. This is especially true because pregnancies can involve other health complications that are unique to each woman. Just because it is safe for one woman to receive a COVID-19 vaccine does not mean that it is safe for every woman to receive it.
In fact, only 7 months ago, pregnant women were not allowed to get the vaccine in the U.K. Now, with the Delta variant on the rise, journalists in the U.K., Australia, and the U.S. are eager to reassure women that the vaccines are perfectly safe. To make such an about-face in less time than it takes a baby to develop and be born seems premature, at best, and clearly is not based on any rigorous scientific process.
Lest you think that these concerns are unfounded, take a moment to consider that over 10,000 babies were born without limbs in the 1950s and 1960s because their mothers took thalidomide during pregnancy. Similarly, up until 1971, doctors in Australia were prescribing diethylstilboestrol (DES) to prevent miscarriage, and it only became apparent decades later that DES children often face reproductive and fertility problems including undescended and underdeveloped testicles, lowered sperm count, cervical cancer, and breast cancer. We simply do not know what the long-term effects of the COVID-19 vaccine might be. Do you really want to see news headlines in 20 years saying that COVID-19 vaccine babies are experiencing higher risks of illness or decreased fertility?
On a more immediate level, the fever associated with the COVID-19 vaccine can cause miscarriage. I personally know two women who were advised by their doctors not to get the COVID-19 vaccine. One of these women is a federal employee who has pre-existing conditions that make it difficult for her to become pregnant and carry a baby to term. In a private conversation before the vaccination mandate, she expressed concern about potentially being asked why she wasn’t vaccinated and not wanting to disclose to her employer that she was trying to become pregnant. It is already stressful to try to become pregnant while working during a pandemic, and Biden’s new mandate is bound to make her situation much more difficult.
All this is to say that we should not disregard or dismiss women’s legitimate concerns about the COVID-19 vaccination. No woman should feel compelled or forced to get a vaccine that could put her baby’s health at risk. And no woman should be forced to choose between her peace of mind about her baby’s health and her position in the workplace. Yet this is exactly what Biden’s vaccine mandate for federal employees does–whether intentionally or not.
If the Government is genuinely concerned about ending the pandemic, rather than merely pressuring people to get vaccines, they should create policies that don’t create two classes of workers. Masking and social distancing should either be universally required, regardless of vaccination status, or not required at all. Moreover, any vaccination requirement should include exemptions for medical reasons–and this exemption should entitle the employee to the same privileges as an employee who is vaccinated.
However, thanks to President Biden, women who are federal employees will now have to choose between delaying their plans to start a family; taking the plunge on a vaccine that could harm their baby; or being reduced to second-class citizens in the workplace for not only their nine months of pregnancy, but the time that it takes them to conceive.
Moreover, women who are already pregnant will now, without warning, face months of being socially ostracized and impediments to their professional growth in the federal workplace.
Two pregnant women in the private sector have actually been fired for refusing to take the COVID-19 vaccine due to their concerns about its safety. Can anyone legitimately insist that this is not discrimination on the basis of pregnancy? And while less obvious, there will certainly be a case to be made for women in the federal workplace who do not receive access to promotions, bonuses, or better opportunities because they are barred from fully participating in the workplace–especially if they have medical documentation from a doctor advising them against COVID-19 vaccination.
Biden’s requirement, in not acknowledging that individuals have legitimate medical reasons for not receiving the vaccine, is frankly insulting. It is more than an infringement on individual liberty; it is a rejection of the belief that individuals are capable of making their own decisions about what is safest for themselves and their communities. With so many individuals already vaccinated and medical treatments now available for those sick with COVID-19, we are in a far better position now than we were one year ago. Mandating vaccines for federal workers is simply not necessary.