Adam Jeffery | CNBC
Billionaire Ken Langone told CNBC on Wednesday that all of his businesses will mandate employees be vaccinated against Covid once the shots receive full approval from the Food and Drug Administration.
“You get the FDA to say it’s final, it’s approved, and I can guarantee you all the places I’m involved in, if you don’t get vaccinated you will get fired,” Langone said on “Squawk Box.” “You have an obligation to your fellow man to protect him as well as yourself.”
Langone, who serves as chairman of the board of trustees of NYU Langone Medical Center, said there will always be a “risk of litigation” with mandating vaccines in the emergency phase. He’s also founder of investment bank Invemed Associates and co-founder of Home Depot. He is not on Home Depot’s board, and a Home Depot spokeswoman on Wednesday added that Langone does not speak on behalf of Home Depot.
Two of the three Covid vaccines currently being given in the U.S. were cleared for emergency use by the FDA in late December. Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech said in May that they began the process of seeking full approval for their two-dose vaccine for use in people 16 and older in the U.S. Moderna applied for full FDA approval of its two-shot vaccine last month.
The third Covid vaccine cleared in the U.S., a one-dose regimen from Johnson & Johnson, received its emergency use authorization in February. J&J has not yet applied for full FDA approval.
Langone’s comments came against the backdrop of a Covid pandemic reawakened by the highly contagious delta variant, which is spreading rapidly worldwide and throughout the U.S., particularly in communities with lower vaccination rates. More than 163 million people — about 49.2% of the American population — are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Delta, first discovered in India, is expected to cause another surge in new cases this fall as employers figure out how to bring people back into the office — and if they even should.
Few companies have mandated employees to be fully vaccinated before returning to the office, Shellye Archambeau, a board member at Verizon, Nordstrom and Roper Technologies, told CNBC last week.
Instead, Archambeau said they’re strongly encouraging and trying to make it easier for workers to get vaccinated by making it voluntary to return to the office, and encouraging pandemic-related protocols for those who are unvaccinated.
Unlike private companies, however, President Joe Biden is expected to announce this week that his administration will require federal workers to be vaccinated for Covid or otherwise submit to strict testing measures, NBC News reported Wednesday.
On Tuesday, the CDC updated its mask guidance to recommend that fully vaccinated people begin wearing masks indoors again in areas with high Covid transmission rates.
While federal health officials believe fully vaccinated individuals represent a small amount of transmission, some vaccinated people can still carry higher levels of viral load than previously understood and possibly transmit it to others.