Google drops global vaccine requirement to enter buildings, says ‘world is in a very different place’

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An Android statue is displayed in front of a building on the Google campus on January 31, 2022 in Mountain View, California. Google parent company Alphabet will report fourth quarter earnings on Tuesday after the closing bell.
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Google no longer requires people to be vaccinated for Covid in order to enter its buildings.

In a companywide email titled “Lifting our global vaccine policy” sent to employees Tuesday, which was viewed by CNBC, Google’s VP of global security Chris Rackow said “vaccines will no longer be required as a condition of entry to any of our buildings.”

“Last month marks three years since the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic,” Rackow wrote in his memo. “We put in place emergency measures such as our Covid-19 vaccine policy to keep everyone safe, but now the world is in a very different place. Most people today have some level of immunity against COVID-19, case rates and hospitalizations have stabilized for many months now, and governments all around the world—including the U.S.—are ending emergency declarations, lifting restrictions and ending vaccination mandates.”

In December 2021, Google told employees that they must comply with vaccine policies or they’d face losing pay and then eventually losing their job, citing rules for government contractors. Then, in February, ahead of asking employees to come back to offices and the U.S. appeals court deciding that rule’s legal standing, the company relaxed policies around requiring vaccines for employment, as well as other rules around testing, social distancing and masks.

However, it still required employees to be vaccinated to enter company sites.

Several hundred Google employees at the time signed and circulated a manifesto opposing the company’s Covid vaccine mandate, arguing leadership’s decision will have an outsize influence in corporate America. It also noted outbreaks kept happening at Google offices among vaccinated employees while those who declined to declare their vaccination status were still banned from offices and other gatherings including off-sites, summits and team events.

“Vaccines will no longer be required as a condition of entry to any of our buildings,” Rackow’s Tuesday email stated. He encouraged everyone to remain up to date with their Covid vaccines going forward, “just as we encourage everyone to get a flu shot every year,” adding that the vaccines have been “critical” to keeping Google employees safe in the workplace.

The mandate change comes after President Biden signed a bill this week to end the national emergency declared during the Covid pandemic that has been in place for more than three years. In January, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Covid remains a global health emergency, though weekly Covid deaths have dropped 70% since the peak of the first massive omicron wave in February of last year. However, deaths started increasing again in December as China, the world’s most populous country, faced its largest wave of infection yet.

The mandate change also comes as Google has struggled to get employees back into physical offices and as the company has begun downsizing its real estate amid broader cost-cutting efforts. A CNBC report last month showed Google plans to ask cloud employees and partners to share desks at the division’s five largest locations, which include New York and San Francisco.

Google did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Read the full memo below:

“Last month marks three years since the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic. We put in place emergency measures such as our Covid-19 vaccine policy to keep everyone safe, but now the world is in a very different place. Most people today have some level of immunity against Covid-19, case rates and hospitalizations have stabilized for many months now, and governments all around the world — including the U.S. — are ending emergency declarations, lifting restrictions and ending vaccination mandates.

Based on this, we’re now lifting our global vaccine policy. This means that vaccines will no longer be required as a condition of entry to any of our buildings. Those with existing accommodations will receive an email with further guidance.

Covid-19 vaccines have been a critical part of our overall strategy to keep Googlers safe, especially in the workplace. They also have the benefit of reducing the risk of severe disease if you get infected and have helped to protect vulnerable members of our community. We encourage everyone to remain up to date with their Covid-19 vaccines going forward, just as we encourage everyone to get a flu shot every year.

We’ll continue to follow all local regulations and will maintain our cleaning and ventilation standards in the office, and we ask that you do your part by monitoring your health and staying home if you feel sick.

We’ve come through an extraordinary time, which called on us to adapt and come together in ways we couldn’t have imagined. I am proud and grateful for the resilience you’ve all shown as we navigated so much uncertainty—for our company and the world—over the past few years. 

Thank you again for everything you do to keep your colleagues and communities safe.

Chris”

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