Companies unlikely to require COVID-19 vaccine, Walmart CEO says

'Our role is to encourage it,' Business Roundtable leader says

Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser receives a COVID-19 vaccine administered by nurse Rishea Casselle at the Kaiser Permanente Capitol Hill Medical Center on Monday. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)
Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser receives a COVID-19 vaccine administered by nurse Rishea Casselle at the Kaiser Permanente Capitol Hill Medical Center on Monday. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)
Posted January 25, 2021 at 2:26pm

Companies are unlikely to mandate that their employees receive a COVID-19 vaccine to come to work, said Business Roundtable Chairman and Walmart Inc. CEO Doug McMillon.

McMillon said no members of the Business Roundtable, a lobbying group whose members are CEOs of the largest U.S. companies, have chosen to require vaccination so far.

“Our role is to encourage it and communicate facts and to set an example,” McMillon said during a call with reporters last week.

The largest U.S. company, Walmart employs almost 1.5 million people in the United States and has remained open during the pandemic. Walmart store employees and other workers categorized as essential should be eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines ahead of the general population.

Companies such as Dollar General Corp., Instacart and Trader Joe’s have announced financial incentives for workers who get the vaccine as a way to encourage vaccination without mandating it.

While mandates have not been common so far, companies could use them when broader sections of their workforce return to in-person work or when more front-line workers become eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Polls have shown openness to requirements among corporate leaders. About 39 percent of U.S. public company directors said employers should require workers to get vaccines before returning to work, according to a mid-December poll by Diligent Institute and Corporate Board Members. Employers can legally set rules that employees have vaccinations as long as they allow certain exceptions.

Some businesses, including Walmart, are involved in vaccinations as both employers and participants in the distribution process. McMillon said the Business Roundtable was in touch with the Biden administration to discuss speeding up vaccinations.

Biden has promised to deliver 100 million doses of vaccines within his first 100 days in office.

Walmart currently has the capacity to vaccinate more people than its current rate suggests, and clarity from the federal government would help speed that process, McMillon said. He said nationwide rules on who is eligible to receive the vaccine would be particularly useful.