Many businesses have begun to implement mandatory vaccinations for their employees and offer financial incentives for those who have yet to receive any of the COVID-19 vaccines.

On one side, businesses like Emory Healthcare recently announced that the vaccine for employees was mandatory. The Atlanta Voice interviewed several people who work with county organizations and private corporations that are imposing vaccine mandates for this story. The people interviewed for this story asked to remain anonymous. 

I don’t think it’s fair, but it is hard to determine without knowing the agency’s motivation behind it,” Elizabeth M. said of business vaccine mandates. “The agency should be completely transparent with employees and allow them to make their decision. It sends the message that people can be bought and the agency is preying on a need or a want to persuade an individual to make a health decision.”

Two of the three people interviewed for this story said that it’s unfair for businesses to mandate vaccinations. One Fulton County employee says that it’s disrespectful for Fulton County to offer financial incentives.

“You are coercing employees to get something they are not comfortable by using a financial incentive,” April L. said. “How do my kids benefit in the event I die from being coerced into getting this vaccine?”

An employee with Delta Air Lines had a different view to being incentivized to getting the vaccine. 

“Actually, I am fine with the policy,” the Delta Air Lines employee said. “At one point I wasn’t going to get the vaccine myself, but I had a friend die from [COVID-19] because she had other medical issues. I suffer from a type of autoimmune disorder plus a heart condition; my child came to mind, what happens to him if I am gone?”

She added, “I personally didn’t need an incentive to get it or have my child get it. When dealing with the public you need as much protection as you can get. You want to be able to go home to your family and not give them something that could take their life.”

Delta Air Lines spokesperson Morgan Durrant says that Delta “continues to strongly encourage our employees to get vaccinated.” 

The incentives that Delta has given include paid time off and other things.

“Additionally, our workforce vaccination rate is nearly 75 percent and climbing and our headquarters staff vaccination rate is 87 percent and climbing,” Durrant said.

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms recently placed the City of Atlanta in the Yellow Zone for the new COVID-19 Resilience Plan. The Yellow Zone is classified as cases averaging 75-249, hospitalizations averaging between 201-349 and a diagnostic test positivity between 5.1-10%. 

Even with the increasing number of cases in Atlanta, vaccine hesitancy is at an all-time high as several falsehoods about the vaccines continue to be spread. Deeply rooted in history, among the black community, the Tuskegee Experiment’s effects remain.

During the experiment, hundreds of Black men were studied without consent. The Tuskegee Experiment did not give its subjects a vaccine. Instead, the men were kept in the dark about having syphilis and denied treatment.

A decade into the study when penicillin became the standard treatment for the disease, the men were not given the medicine. As a result, syphilis spread through the community and many people died. In the past, Black people were regularly denied access to treatment due to medical racism.

“People are weary of getting the vaccine because we’ve seen what the government has done to people in the past, “ April said. “Nobody really has any answers to how it truly works so most people are getting it either out of fear of dying from COVID-19 or fear of someone around them dying. It’s the fear-mongering and the unanswered questions.”

Others agree.

“I believe the apprehension of the unvaccinated comes from this country’s track record of not making decisions that benefit people but benefit individuals or the government financially,” Elizabeth said. “Also this (is) new territory for us all. We’re learning at the same time as new information unfolds.”

It’s the unknown, and if and when the COVID-19 vaccine is made mandatory, it will be the first mandate of its kind in most of our lifetimes.

According to a report by CNN, a large number of corporations and businesses-Google, Lyft, Tyson Foods, for example- have begun to implement vaccine requirements.

Georgia has had 15,493 new cases of COVID-19 in the past week according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

FILE – In this March 30, 2021, file photo, stickers are available for individuals that receive a vaccination at Mercedes-Benz Stadium Community Vaccination Center in Atlanta. The U.S. moved closer Thursday, April 1, toward vaccinating 100 million Americans in a race against an uptick in COVID-19 cases that is fueling fears of another nationwide surge just as the major league baseball season starts and thousands of fans return to stadiums. (Photo Credit: Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP, File)