COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry has voiced its opposition to President Joe Biden's vaccine plan, saying the president's agenda takes away businesses' freedom of choice.
The president's plan applies to just over 3,700 businesses in Missouri, according to the Missouri Chamber.
Biden addressed the nation Thursday afternoon to announce his plan to make businesses with 100 or more employees require their staff to either get vaccinated against COVID-19 or get tested weekly. Several Missouri politicians and business groups shared negative opinions on the plan. Gov. Mike Parson said he plans on challenging the new requirement and a special session is not off the table.
Daniel Mehan, president and CEO of the Missouri Chamber, said he believes the president's announcement was unhelpful because it raised more questions than answers.
"The president put out an arbitrary rule requiring employers of 100 or more people, for those people to get vaccinated," Mehan said. "There will be penalties for those who don't, according to the rule, but we haven't seen those details."
Mehan said Biden's plan fails to mention who will pay for weekly tests and what the penalties are for not complying.
"These are questions that we're getting asked right now by a manufacturer in St. Louis. His employees are coming up and saying 'do I pay for the tests I don't want to get the vaccine?'" Mehan said.
The Missouri Chamber has its own vaccine incentive program for businesses called COVID Stops Here. Mehan said the program has proven successful, with nearly 300 businesses participating. Its purpose is to encourage vaccinations while still leaving the choice up to the business or individual, Mehan said.
"They haven't done it under the threat of a penalty, so that's two different ways to approach it," Mehan said. "Obviously, we like ours better because it's allowing the employer to make the decision, it's not mandating or forcing an employer to abide by the rule of the federal government."
Private and public sector businesses are affected by this change. Several large employers in mid-Missouri will be affected by these new rules, including Kraft, ABB and 3M.
The University of Missouri System Board of Curators recently voted against a system-wide vaccine mandate. After Biden's announcement, university spokesman Christian Basi said the system will not decide whether or not to require vaccines until after its reviews Biden's plan.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 46% of Missourians are vaccinated. Boone County is a leader in vaccination rates, as the first county in Missouri to reach more than 50% vaccinated.
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