Facebook to require vaccinations for employees returning to the office
Big tech is finally taking a stance on vaccinations.
On Wednesday, Facebook said it would require employees to receive Covid-19 vaccinations before returning to work in U.S. Facebook offices. This is a reversal from its December 2020 policies which would encourage, but not require, Covid-19 vaccines for in-office work.
“As our offices reopen, we will be requiring anyone coming to work at any of our US campuses to be vaccinated,” Lori Goler, Facebook’s vice president of people, said in an emailed statement sent to Mashable. “How we implement this policy will depend on local conditions and regulations. We will have a process for those who cannot be vaccinated for medical or other reasons and will be evaluating our approach in other regions as the situation evolves. We continue to work with experts to ensure our return to office plans prioritize everyone’s health and safety.”
On Wednesday, Google announced that it would require vaccinations for “anyone coming to work on Google campuses.” Previously, Twitter was the only big tech company to require vaccines for employees working on-site.
Facebook will now finally ban COVID-19 vaccine misinformation
But the situation has changed as the Delta variant causes Covid spikes across the country. While the new infections are occurring largely among the unvaccinated, the CDC also reversed previous guidance around masking, saying vaccinated people should wear masks indoors in places where infections are prominent.
Government agencies are also making vaccine policy changes. City employees of New York and Los Angeles now have a vaccine mandate, as do California state and health employees. At the federal level, frontline health workers for the Veterans Affairs agency must also get vaccinated within two months, and the Biden administration is reportedly planning to announce a vaccine requirement for federal employees, or weekly testing.
The common-sense vaccine requirements may be more controversial than they should be. Some conservatives have conflated getting vaccinated as an issue of personal freedom, not public health; Republican lawmakers have even passed laws preventing businesses from requiring customers to show proof of vaccination. At the same time, big tech companies want to appear politically neutral as they face (unproven) accusations of anti-conservative bias, and anti-trust inquiries on both sides of the aisle.
The moves by Facebook and Google are positive steps to protect employees, encourage mass-vaccination, and plant their flag on the side of public health. Unfortunately, vaccine hesitancy and Covid conspiracy theories have flourished on Facebook and Google-owned YouTube, despite bans of this content by both companies.
The two companies are now doing their part to protect employees and send a positive, pro-science message. However, that pales in comparison to the damage their respective platforms have done by enabling the spread of anti-vaccination misinformation.