We may be more than a year out from the beginning of the COVID pandemic, but the new Delta variant — not to mention rampant vaccination misinformation — has caused the number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. to triple in just the past few weeks. And while Hollywood is understandably anxious to get back to show business as usual, the logistics of film and TV production have made that difficult. Few companies seem to understand this better than Netflix, which has become the first studio to require that all its actors, as well as “Zone A” crew members who have reason to be in direct and close contact with those actors, be vaccinated. As Deadline reports, “Some productions, like the Starz/UCP series Gaslit, have adopted the mandatory vaccination policy. Netflix is making it standard across the board in the U.S.”
The mandate comes just weeks after the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers and some of the industry’s biggest guilds agreed to “implement mandatory vaccination policies for casts and crew in Zone A on a production-by-production basis.” While it’s a step in the right direction, the case-by-case approach is not enough for some people. Sean Penn, star of the aforementioned Gaslit, isn’t keen to resume production until everyone on the set has been vaccinated, which he’s offered to personally organize.
But it makes sense that Netflix would be the first studio to take these kinds of precautionary measures. The Witcher, Grace and Frankie, and the upcoming musical rendition of Matilda are just some of the Netflix productions that have had their schedules impacted by the pandemic. On July 17, Deadline reported that season 2 of semi-porny Bridgerton had to put a pause on production—just one day after resuming production on the already-shut-down show. It’s an issue that Phoebe Dynevor, who stars as Daphne Bridgerton on the mega-hit series, saw coming way back in January when she told Deadline: “I can’t imagine how it would be possible to film under these circumstances. There are so many extras and so many crew members, and it’s a very intimate show. It just baffles me how we would film it under COVID rules unless there was a vaccine beforehand.”
As Deadline writes:
Netflix’s decision comes amid a fourth COVID wave in the U.S. fueled by the highly contagious Delta variant, which brought COVID safety on set back to the spotlight. While vaccination is not a silver bullet — there have been breakthrough infections for fully vaccinated people — it is considered a crucial safeguard alongside existing safety protocols including regular testing, PPE and social distancing.
The vaccine mandate is the strongest measure Netflix could enforce under the current return-to-work protocols. There have been calls to expand the vaccination requirement beyond Zone A.