A range of businesses and institutions have begun scaling back vaccination requirements as the Biden administration's mandates get tied up in court, retrenching out of fear of losing members and employees who refuse to comply.

Amtrak earlier this week backed off a mandate that would have given roughly 17,000 employees until Jan. 4 to get vaccinated or be forced to go on unpaid leave. Fewer than 500 employees have refused to get vaccinated, according to a companywide memo from CEO William J. Flynn. The loss of that many workers was expected to cause service cuts next month, an official warned lawmakers last week. The company chose to “reevaluate our policy” after the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a nationwide stay of the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for companies with at least 100 employees. To date, about 97% of Amtrak’s workforce is either vaccinated or has obtained some kind of exemption.


The Los Angeles Unified School District will postpone enforcement of its student vaccine mandate from next month to next fall, a decision that came after district officials realized roughly 28,000 students would not comply and therefore would be barred from entering schools. The district’s mandate previously required all students 12 and older to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 10. Students 5 to 11, while authorized to get vaccinated with the Pfizer shots, are not required to do so. The decision to halt enforcement means that those thousands of students will not be made to use the city’s virtual learning platform City of Angels, which buckled under the weight of some 16,000 new users.

Hospitals and care systems such as Tenet Healthcare, HCA Healthcare, Cleveland Clinic, and AdventHealth have pulled back on their vaccine mandates for employees, citing labor shortages that were exacerbated by the requirements. The healthcare corporations backed off the mandate after a Louisiana federal judge blocked a vaccination mandate issued by the Biden administration that would have compelled all employees who work in government-funded healthcare settings to get the shots. The Biden administration mandate, blocked on Nov. 30, has not been reinstated. It would have affected roughly 10 million employees.

Walt Disney World in Florida rescinded its vaccine mandate last month after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law a ban on employer vaccine mandates to keep companies from firing workers. The law stipulated that workers must be given the choice of numerous exemptions, “including but not limited to, health or religious concerns; pregnancy or anticipated future pregnancy; and past recovery from COVID-19.” Disney announced last summer that all salaried employees would be required to get their shots by the end of September, an approach to mandatory vaccines that the company maintained “has been the right one as we have continued to focus on the safety and well-being of our Cast Members and Guests.” Still, the park’s employee vaccination rate is high: About 90% of all Florida-based employees are fully vaccinated.

Huntington Ingalls Industries, the country’s largest naval shipbuilder, will not enforce the mandate handed down by the Biden administration that compelled all military contractors to get vaccinated. Before the mandate was blocked by a federal judge in Georgia last week, the shipbuilding company told its 44,000 employees that it was not contractually obligated to conform.

Meanwhile, several entities have taken the opposite approach and terminated the relatively small number of people who defied the mandates rather than rescind the mandates to save employees.

The Marine Corps discharged 103 members for violating the military branch’s Nov. 28 vaccine mandate. The Corps had previously warned that those who defied the mandate would be booted, even though vaccine uptake among the ranks exceeded 94%. Still, the Marine Corps has the lowest vaccination rate of any military branch.

The Army, meanwhile, discharged six active-duty leaders, including two commanding officers, after they failed to meet the Dec. 15 vaccination deadline. Another 2,767 officers have been given formal reprimands from the Defense Department for refusing the shots without applying for medical or religious exemptions. The military branch is expected to discharge more soldiers in January, when commanders will begin the process of involuntarily removing from active duty the less than 1% of soldiers who refuse to get vaccinated. So far, about 6,200 soldiers have sought temporary or permanent exemptions. Ninety-six percent, a total of 461,209 soldiers, have been fully vaccinated.


The Air Force discharged 27 airmen who refused the vaccine and failed to apply for an exemption, the Washington Post reported Tuesday. Slightly over 1,000 active-duty airmen have so far refused to get vaccinated, while roughly 4,700 have sought a religious exemption. As of Monday, 95% of the Air Force’s 501,000 total service members have been fully vaccinated.

United Airlines has fired six pilots for failing to get vaccinated in accordance with the companywide mandate. Of the roughly 13,000 pilots on its staff, about 80 of them were granted exemptions. The company has achieved high vaccination rates since setting the requirement for its 67,000 U.S. employees. Less than 3% of those employees applied for an exemption, and of the remaining, over 99% of workers complied.