(CNSNews.com) - As the president's vaccine mandates divide the nation, Biden says they shouldn't. He said his get-vaccinated-or-get-fired plan is working. And he urged more businesses and parents to "step up."
"I'm calling on more parents to get their children vaccinated when they are eligible." Biden said he expects approval of a vaccine for ages 5-11 in the next few weeks.
"We're making progress," Biden said, noting that 66 million Americans are still unvaccinated, down from almost 100 million in July.
"We have a lot more to do," the president continued:
We're in a very critical period as we work to turn the corner on COVID-19. First, we have to do more to vaccinate the 66 million unvaccinated people in America. It's essential.
The vaccine requirements that we started rolling out in the summer are working. They're working. The Labor Department is going to soon be issuing an emergency rule for companies with 100 or more employees to implement vaccination requirements in their -- among their workforce. Every day, we see more businesses implementing vaccination requirements, and the mounting data shows that they work.
Businesses and organizations that are implementing requirements are seeing their vaccination rates rise by an average of 20 percent or more to well over 90 percent, the number of employees vaccinated. Let's be clear. Vaccination requirements should not be another issue that divides us. That's why we continue to battle the misinformation that's out there.
Children ages 5-11 are expected to be eligible for COVID vaccination very soon.
"Now, I know parents out there are anxiously waiting for a vaccine for children ages five to 11," Biden said. "The good news is the FDA and outside experts from the CDC are set to make its determination as to whether the vaccine will be authorized for that age range in the next few weeks.
"If authorized, we are ready. We have purchased enough vaccines for all children between the ages of five and 11 in the United States. And we'll be -- it will be convenient for parents to get their children vaccinated at trusted locations, and families will be able to sleep easier at night knowing their kids are protected as well."
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 513 children, ages 0-17, have died of COVID-involved illness since the pandemic began. Those children represent less than one percent (0.071 percent) of all COVID deaths in the United States.
In a speech on Sept. 9, Biden announced his new vaccination "requirements," which apply even to people who recovered from COVID and therefore have natural immunity.
"This is not about freedom or personal choice," Biden said at the time. "It’s about protecting yourself and those around you — the people you work with, the people you care about, the people you love. My job as President is to protect all Americans."
Biden said the Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration would produce an "emergency rule" requiring all employers with 100 or more employees to "ensure their workforces are fully vaccinated or show a negative test at least once a week." Employers will have to give workers paid time off to get their shots.
"The bottom line," Biden said: "We're going to protect vaccinated workers from unvaccinated co-workers. We’re going to reduce the spread of COVID-19 by increasing the share of the workforce that is vaccinated in businesses all across America."
Biden also extended vaccination requirements in the healthcare field to "all nursing home workers" who treat Medicare/Medicaid patients -- "because I have that federal authority."
He said he would use that authority to require vaccinations for everyone working in hospitals, home healthcare, or other medical facilities.
Biden said he was signing an executive order requiring all executive branch federal employees to be vaccinated -- "all," he repeated sternly. And he signed another order requiring vaccination for all federal contractors.
In his "update" on Thursday, Biden closed by saying, "The plan I laid out in September is working. We're headed in the right direction. We have critical work to do, but we can't let up now.
"My team and I are doing everything we can, but I'm calling on more businesses to step up. I'm calling on more parents to get their children vaccinated when they are eligible. And I'm asking everyone, everyone who hasn't gotten vaccinated, please get vaccinated. That's how we put this pandemic behind us and accelerate our economic recovery."