Economy

'Better to have live employees than sick or dead ones' — manufacturing leader on vaccine mandates

Key Points
  • "In the end it's better to have live employees than sick or dead ones," the CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers told CNBC on Thursday.
  • That's why the manufacturing trade group was willing to mandate Covid vaccines for its staff, according to Jay Timmons.
  • Receiving a Covid vaccine, he added, is "the responsible thing to do."
VIDEO3:4203:42
NAM CEO says 100 percent of employees vaccinated after mandate

The CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers told CNBC on Thursday he believes company mandates for Covid vaccinations are an important policy step, even if it causes some employees to depart at a time when hiring workers can be challenging.

"I don't think that's going to happen in most cases. It is a consideration, and let's be upfront about it: We have a very severe worker shortage in our country right now," Jay Timmons, who has led the nation's largest manufacturing group for a decade, said in an interview on "Squawk on the Street."

"We're in competition now all across every sector for workers, but in the end it's better to have live employees than sick or dead ones, so this is something I think all employers are going to be grappling with," Timmons added.

Washington-based NAM in July required all of its roughly 150 employees to be vaccinated against Covid by Sept. 20, with exceptions made for religious or medical reasons.

Timmons described the decision as one focused on workplace safety. About 94% of the organization's staff had received a Covid vaccine prior to the mandate announcement, he said, and now 100% have been vaccinated.

"I'm thrilled because our team cares about not only themselves and their families, but also the people we interact with every single day, our 14,000 member manufacturers across the country. It's the responsible thing to do," Timmons said.

None of the group's employees confronted management with strong opposition to vaccines, Timmons said. "I hate to say it, but we were prepared" to let anyone go who refused to take the shots without a valid exception, he added. "We didn't have that issue."

The number of companies, government entities and organizations that have adopted strict coronavirus vaccine policies has accelerated in recent weeks, as government and corporate leaders alike try to convince hesitant Americans to receive the lifesaving shots. The Food and Drug Administration's decision on Monday to fully approve the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid shot was seen as crucial cover for more management teams to institute mandates.

That vaccine, along with those from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, had initially been administered to Americans under emergency use authorization. Moderna's and J&J's shots have yet to receive full regulatory clearance.

Nearly 52% of the U.S. population has been fully vaccinated against Covid, while 61% has received at least one dose, according to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The number of new daily Covid shots in the country peaked in April, based on a weekly average, before declining significantly in the months that followed. However, vaccinations have picked up in recent weeks, as the highly transmissible delta variant spread and prompted a rise in infections, hospitalizations and Covid deaths.