As the U.S. economy and entertainment industry revs shakily back to life, even as we enter the interminable fourth wave of COVID-19 infection in the United States, powered by the highly contagious Delta variant, it has become clear that vaccine hesitancy and disinformation has slowed the country’s path to recovery. A pandemic that very well could have been functionally over months ago has instead been allowed to fester, generating new variants that could at some point become even more vaccine resistant. In an effort to finally bring the disease to heel, and reduce its prevalence enough that life can more fully return to normal, government and health care organizations have begun mandating vaccination for employees, targeting those who have refused to date to protect themselves and others from a dangerous disease.
Deadline is now reporting that Netflix will join other large U.S. employers who are mandating vaccination, setting an important precedent as they will be the first major Hollywood studio (and you have to think of Netflix as a major Hollywood studio these days) to do so. The company will have a blanket policy mandating vaccinations for the cast of all U.S. productions, as well as the “Zone A” personnel who come in contact with those performers on set. This will cover the vast majority of cast and crew, when it comes to Netflix productions.
I recent weeks, following the agreement on return-to-work protocols hashed out by Hollywood unions and major studios, various individual productions have put their own vaccine mandates into effect. The Starz series Gaslit, for instance, began mandating vaccination for all its cast and crew after star Sean Penn stated that he wouldn’t return to the series until the entire production had been vaccinated against COVID-19. Now, with Netflix making this a company wide standard, other studios are sure to follow suit. Deadline reports that exceptions to the policy will be “very rare,” and “limited to medical, religious or age reasons.”
Right-wing America, meanwhile, has been vehemently opposed to vaccine mandates in general in recent weeks, arguing in favor of individual freedoms against the sort of social responsibility that might have gone a long way in preventing more than 612,000 deaths to date in the U.S. It’s just the latest phase of our current culture wars, which has most recently seen GOP officials trying to find a way to recommend vaccination to their conservative base while simultaneously avoiding provoking the ire of conspiracy theorists and COVID deniers. Former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders even tried to make the vaccine sound more palatable to conservatives by calling it “The Trump Vaccine” in a recent op-ed, which illustrates that even Republican talking heads have become afraid of the unchecked spread of the Delta variant among the unvaccinated.
At the end of the day, vaccination rates in the U.S. will continue to climb, and we should eventually see a decline of the virus—hopefully the final decline.