UPDATE 1-GE mandates COVID-19 vaccines for U.S. workers

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By Rajesh Kumar Singh

CHICAGO, Oct 19 (Reuters) - General Electric Co has asked its U.S.-based workers to get COVID-19 shots or seek a medical or religious accommodation by Dec. 8 in order to comply with U.S. President Joe Biden's executive order.

As part of efforts to control the pandemic, which has killed more than 700,000 Americans, Biden, a Democrat, last month signed the order requiring federal contractors to mandate COVID-19 shots for employees and get them vaccinated by Dec. 8.

As a federal contractor, GE said it is complying with the executive order. The company updated its vaccine policy for more than 50,000 U.S. workers last week.

The Boston-based conglomerate is the latest U.S. employer to impose such a requirement, which has sparked a political fight.

While supporters of vaccine mandates see them as necessary to pull the country out of the nearly two-year-old pandemic, critics are calling them unconstitutional and authoritarian.

The White House has said vaccine requirements have driven up COVID-19 vaccination rates by 20 percentage points.

The measure has drawn a sharp reaction from some Republicans, with Texas Governor Greg Abbott last week barring COVID-19 vaccine mandates by any entity, including private employers.

Union Pacific Corp and its three unions have sued each other over the vaccine mandate. (Reporting by Rajesh Kumar Singh Editing by Chris Reese and Alistair Bell)

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