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COVID-19 Vaccine Now Required for 36% of U.S. Workers

COVID-19 Vaccine Now Required for 36% of U.S. Workers

Story Highlights

  • 36% of U.S. workers say their employer is requiring COVID-19 vaccine
  • More employees continue to favor than oppose mandates
  • Employees strongly opposed to mandates inclined to look for other jobs

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The latest Gallup COVID-19 tracking survey finds 36% of U.S. employees saying their employer is requiring all its workers without a medical exemption to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The percentage has steadily increased each of the last three months, rising from 9% in July.


Line graph. Thirty-six percent of U.S. adults working full or part time say their employer is requiring employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The percentage is up from 29% in September and 19% in August. It ranged between 5% and 9% from May to July.

In addition to those saying their employer is mandating vaccination, the Oct. 18-24 survey finds 39% of U.S. workers saying their employer is encouraging but not requiring them. This percentage has declined from 62% in July as those who say their employer requires vaccines has risen.

Meanwhile, 25% of U.S. workers say their employer has not indicated a vaccine policy, a proportion that has been relatively steady since Gallup first asked the question in May.

Employees Continue to Support Mandates

More U.S. employees say they favor mandates (56%) than are opposed to them (37%). The percentage in favor has grown from 46% in May, while there has been little change in the percentage opposed. Fewer today than in May (7% vs. 15%, respectively) say they neither favor nor oppose vaccination requirements.

U.S. Workers' Opinions on Employer Vaccination Requirements
How would you feel about your employer requiring all employees (who do not have a medical exemption) to receive the coronavirus/COVID-19 vaccination?
May 2021 June 2021 July 2021 Aug 2021 Sep 2021 Oct 2021
% Strongly favor 29 33 36 41 46 45
% Favor 17 16 16 11 12 11
% Neither favor nor oppose 15 14 10 10 6 7
% Oppose 8 7 9 7 7 7
% Strongly oppose 31 30 29 31 29 30
Total % Favor 46 49 52 52 58 56
Total % Oppose 39 37 38 38 36 37
Based on U.S. adults employed full or part time

Most U.S. workers hold strong opinions on vaccination requirements. A combined 75% either strongly favor (45%) or strongly oppose (30%) them. In May, 60% of workers had strong opinions in either direction. Back then, those with strong opinions were equally likely to favor as to oppose vaccine requirements, 29% to 30%. The growth since May, then, has come in the percentage who are strongly in favor.

Will Vaccine Policy Cause Workers to Look for New Jobs?

A key concern for employers is whether vaccine requirements will cause employees to leave their organization to find a job with a COVID-19 vaccination policy that matches their personal preferences.

Nearly one in three U.S. workers are poised to look for a new job if their employer sets a policy on COVID-19 vaccinations with which they disagree. This includes 16% who are strongly opposed to vaccination requirements and 15% who are strongly in favor of them, determined as follows:

  • Thirty percent of all U.S. workers are strongly opposed to employer vaccine requirements, and of these, 52% -- equivalent to 16% of all U.S. workers -- say they would be "extremely likely" to look for a job with a different organization if they disagreed with their employer's policy on vaccine mandates.

  • Forty-five percent of U.S. workers strongly favor employer vaccine requirements, and 33% of this group says they are extremely likely to look for a different job over disagreements about employer vaccine policy. That translates to 15% of all U.S. workers.

Those figures are likely upper bounds of potential job losses tied to COVID-19 vaccine policy, as many will find themselves in sync with their employers' stance -- or not follow through and leave their job even if they disagree. For example, some workers strongly opposed to vaccination requirements may ultimately decide to get vaccinated in order to keep their job. Also, some workers concerned about COVID-19 transmission at work may decide to stay at their job even if their employer does not mandate vaccinations for all workers there.

A separate question in the survey finds that 7% of workers who strongly oppose employer vaccine requirements are actively looking for a different job. The question does not assess whether the job search is related to COVID-19 or for other reasons. Likewise, 10% percent of workers strongly in favor of COVID-19 vaccine requirements are actively looking for a different job.

Notably, neither figure is meaningfully different from the 7% of all U.S. workers who say they are currently actively looking for a different job.

Decisions about leaving one's job are most relevant to those working at organizations with vaccination requirements in place. The Gallup data indicate that 3% of workers do not plan to get vaccinated and work for an employer that has a vaccination requirement in place right now. Another 2% who work for employers with vaccination requirements are currently unvaccinated but plan to be.

Though inconclusive due to small sample sizes, combined data from September and October indicates that unvaccinated employees who work for an employer requiring vaccination are much more likely than other workers to be searching for a job. The data suggest that these employees are two to three times more likely than other workers to be actively looking for another job.

About One in Five Workers Are Unvaccinated

The vast majority of U.S. workers will not have to choose between getting vaccinated or losing their job if their employer mandates COVID-19 vaccinations. Seventy-five percent of U.S. adults employed full or part time are vaccinated, and another 5% say they plan to be.

That leaves 21% unvaccinated according to combined data from the September and October surveys, which is down from 31% in January, when Gallup first measured vaccination status, and 24% in August.

Notably, vaccination rates lag most among blue-collar workers, among whom 56% are currently vaccinated, 5% plan to be and 38% do not intend to get vaccinated. The vaccination rates among white-collar, education and healthcare workers all exceed 80%.

Worker Vaccination Status, by Job Area
Vaccinated Plan to get vaccinated Do not plan to get vaccinated
% % %
All U.S. Workers 75 5 21
White-collar 80 5 15
Blue-collar 56 5 38
Education 86 3 10
Healthcare 82 4 14
Based on U.S. adults employed full or part time; Combined September-October 2021 data

Bottom Line

The Biden administration's workplace rules were announced in September, and many employers that did not already have vaccination requirements of their own in place have begun to comply with those. Legal challenges to government and employer vaccine mandates are working their way through the court system, but as those get sorted out, an increasing number of U.S. workers say their employer is requiring its employees to get COVID-19 vaccines.

Most American workers favor these, but a consistent 30% are strongly opposed. Those workers, some of whom are vaccinated but many who are not, are likely to indicate they will look around for a different job if employers require them to be vaccinated. This group represents about 15% of all U.S. workers, and about half of these, 7%, say they are actively looking for a different job. But a smaller percentage of workers, 3%, have no plans to be vaccinated and work for an employer who currently has a vaccination requirement in place.

Most workers are still not employed by organizations that require COVID-19 vaccinations, so many workers are not yet grappling with an employer mandate to be vaccinated. Some may never confront that situation, even if the Biden administration's actions are upheld in the courts, if those workers are employed by an employer beyond the reach of the federal mandates.

Whether tied to COVID-19 vaccination requirements or other factors, a record number of U.S. workers are quitting their jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Though the percentage of U.S. workers who choose to leave their employer over vaccination requirements may ultimately be small, employers may still be negatively affected if they struggle to find replacement workers when many organizations are having difficulty filling needed jobs.

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