Adam Jeffery | CNBC
Billionaire Ken Langone told CNBC on Wednesday that all of his companies will vaccinate employees against Covid once the vaccinations have received full approval from the Food and Drug Administration.
“They’re letting the FDA say it’s final, it’s approved, and I can guarantee you all the places I’m involved. If you don’t get vaccinated, you will be fired,” Langone said on Squawk Box. “You are obliged to protect your fellow man and yourself.”
Langone, who serves as chair of the board of trustees at NYU Langone Medical Center, said there will always be a “risk of litigation” when vaccines are prescribed in the emergency phase. He is also the founder of the investment bank Invemed Associates and a co-founder of Home Depot. He’s not on Home Depot’s board of directors, and a Home Depot spokeswoman added Wednesday that Langone is not speaking on Home Depot’s behalf.
Two of the three Covid vaccines currently being administered in the US were approved by the FDA for emergency use in late December. Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech announced in May that they had begun the process for full approval of their two-dose vaccine for use in people 16 years of age and older in the United States.
The third Covid vaccine approved in the US, a single dose from Johnson & Johnson, received its emergency approval in February. J&J has not yet applied for full FDA approval.
Langone’s remarks came against the background of a Covid pandemic, which is being awakened by the highly contagious Delta variant, which is spreading rapidly worldwide and in the USA, especially in communities with lower vaccination rates. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 163 million people – about 49.2% of the American population – are fully vaccinated.
Delta, which was first spotted in India, is expected to cause another spike in new cases this fall as employers figure out how to get employees back to the office – and if they should.
Few companies have instructed their employees to fully vaccinate themselves before returning to the office, Shellye Archambeau, board member at Verizon, Nordstrom and Roper Technologies, told CNBC last week.
Instead, Archambeau said they are strongly encouraging and trying to make it easier for workers to get vaccinated by voluntarily returning to the office and promoting pandemic-related protocols for those who are not vaccinated.
Unlike private companies, however, President Joe Biden is expected to announce this week that his government will require federal employees to vaccinate themselves against Covid or otherwise undergo rigorous testing, NBC News reported Wednesday.
On Tuesday, the CDC updated its mask guidelines to recommend that fully vaccinated people return to wearing masks indoors in areas with high rates of Covid transmission.
While federal health officials believe that fully vaccinated individuals represent a low level of transmission, some vaccinated individuals may still carry higher viral loads than previously thought and potentially be transmitted to others.