Former Biden adviser says US won't get more than 70 percent vaccinated 'without a mandate'

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Ezekiel Emanuel, a former member of the Biden transition's COVID-19 advisory board, said on Sunday that the U.S. will not get more than 70 percent of its population vaccinated "without a mandate."

"We will never get to 70, 80 percent or 90 percent of the American population vaccinated without a mandate. It's just that simple," Emanuel told moderator Chuck Todd on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Emanuel, who is currently serving as a vice provost at the University of Pennsylvania, said vaccine mandates are "our best tools to get 90 percent" of the population vaccinated.

"They make sure that people who get infected don't get hospitalized at such a high rate and are very, very, very unlikely to die. That's an important protection for people, and we have to make sure that people get it," he added.

Emanuel's comments came after the Supreme Court heard oral arguments for President Biden's vaccine-or-test mandate for a large swath of the U.S. workforce. The conservative justices on the bench asked sharp questions regarding whether a decades-old federal workplace law provides the legal authority for the regulation.

A number of states have filed lawsuits to stop the controversial policy from being enacted. It is set to take effect on Jan. 10.

Emanuel on Sunday said the Supreme Court must "recognize that COVID in the workplace is a real health threat and really does affect many people."

"Unfortunately, many front-line workers have died from COVID and contracting COVID in the workplace. They need protection, and ... mandating vaccination is a quite reasonable protection," he added.

The U.S. is currently seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases nationwide driven in part by the highly transmissible omicron variant. Deaths, however, have remained lower than during previous surges.

Early studies suggest that the omicron strain causes less severe illness in vaccinated individuals who contract the virus compared to previous variants.

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