(Reuters) – More U.S. states, schools and employers are likely to mandate vaccinations as COVID-19 cases climb but a federal mandate is politically unfeasible, an expert at the Infectious Disease Society of America (ISDA) said on Tuesday.
“I would support employers and schools taking a close look at what they can do to push the envelope on this,” said Preeti Malani, a fellow at ISDA, the top U.S. medical association for infectious diseases.
The highly contagious Delta variant has become the dominant coronavirus strain in the United States, representing about 83% of new infections. So far, unvaccinated people represent nearly 97% of severe cases.
Any vaccination requirements were likely to have “a robust exemption process” for people who have medical reasons to be concerned about getting COVID-19 shots, said Malani, who is also chief health officer at the University of Michigan.
She said some people were waiting for vaccines to secure formal approval by U.S. regulators. The shots authorized so far in the United States have been authorized on an emergency basis.
Case counts have climbed as U.S. schools prepare for the new academic year, raising questions about how best to prevent outbreaks. Experts say facemasks, social distancing and other measures will be important to prevent the spread in schools.
Tina Tan, a member of IDSA’s board of directors, said surveillance testing for COVID-19 would be difficult to implement in K-12 schools, which run from kindergarten age to 18.
“In the K-12 space, I do think that mask mandates … in the school setting should be enforced, because right now we know that kids under 12 can’t be vaccinated and only 30% of children between 12 and 17 have been fully vaccinated,” she said.
(Reporting by Carl O’Donnell; Editing by Edmund Blair)