The number of major employers — not merely companies but also government entities — now requiring workers to be vaccinated is skyrocketing following the Food and Drug Administration's approval of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine. This means the door is closing on holdouts who have ignored science and stubbornly refused to get vaccinated. They now face a stark choice: Relent or face big hassles and potential unemployment.

The tide has turned. Responsible Americans who stepped up and got the jab, believing that this was their ticket to pre-pandemic normalcy, have been held hostage by vaccine refuseniks. The latter group's susceptibility to coronavirus infection is causing new infection rates to soar again, clogging hospital intensive care units and overwhelming health care resources.

Because the delta variant has proven far more contagious and capable of penetrating even the defenses of vaccinated people, the new surge in infections has forced even the vaccinated back into varying degrees of pandemic shutdown mode. Cities and school districts around the country are having to impose unpopular mask mandates.

It didn't have to be this way. Herd immunity would have been possible if more people had responded quickly to government appeals for everyone to get vaccinated. Now, with the coronavirus's ability to mutate into more potent variants and attack the unvaccinated, it'll take much longer to muscle the pandemic back into remission.

It's the vaccine refuseniks who enabled this new surge, so it's only fitting that they should now be forced to reap the consequences of their irresponsibility.

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Delta Air Lines, whose brand name shares an unfortunate association with the variant, announced last week that it will impose a $200 monthly health insurance surcharge on unvaccinated employees. The U.S. military is now requiring all 1.4 million active-duty and reserve service members to get vaccinated. And that makes complete sense when it comes to protecting combat readiness, as demonstrated last year when an outbreak took the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt out of service and forced 4,800 crew members into quarantine.

In St. Louis, Mayor Tishaura Jones took the bold decision of requiring all city workers to be vaccinated by Oct. 15 or undergo weekly testing. Other employers are imposing similar mandates — but with the added twist of requiring the unvaccinated to pay for their own testing.

In other words, they can no longer skate by without paying a price.

Insurance companies also are weighing ways to charge higher premiums on the unvaccinated — again making clear that people who behave irresponsibly, endanger their own health, and raise the costs of medical care for everyone do not deserve to escape financial penalty for their decision.

Of course, there are always special conditions that employers are taking into consideration, such as religious restrictions against vaccination or health vulnerabilities that make getting the shot too risky.

For the rest, however, the days of hassle-free obstinacy are coming to an end, and rightly so.

— St. Louis Post-Dispatch Editorial Board