Biden Mandates COVID Vaccines for Federal Employees, Contractors

September 15th, 2021 by Editor

President Joe Biden issued an executive order mandating that federal government workers, contractors and employees of contractors who do business with the federal government receive vaccinations against COVID-19. The measure is part of the administration’s plan to stop the Delta variant and boost COVID-19 vaccinations among federal employees, according to the White House.

The news comes as the U.S. is experiencing increasing cases of the COVID-19 Delta variant. Reports also show that a new variant, Mu, has started to develop.

“If we raise our vaccination rate, protect ourselves and others with masking and expanded testing, and identify people who are infected, we can and we will turn the tide on COVID-19,” President Biden said in remarks late yesterday, after signing the order. “It will take a lot of hard work, and it’s going to take some time. Many of us are frustrated with the nearly 80 million Americans who are still not vaccinated, even though the vaccine is safe, effective, and free.”

Acknowledging that “[n]early three quarters” of those eligible for a vaccination have received one, Biden expressed concern about the remaining 25%, saying, “[t]hat 25% can cause a lot of damage— and they are.” He pointed to overcrowded hospitals and overrun emergency rooms and intensive care units, “leaving no room for someone with a heart attack … or cancer.”

The President spoke optimistically, saying, “the path ahead, even with the Delta variant, is not nearly as bad as last winter,” while also expressing frustration with “pandemic politics.”

“What makes it incredibly more frustrating is that we have the tools to combat COVID-19, and a distinct minority of Americans—supported by a distinct minority of elected officials—are keeping us from turning the corner. These pandemic politics, as I refer to, are making people sick, causing unvaccinated people to die,” he said. “We cannot allow these actions to stand in the way of protecting the large majority of Americans who have done their part and want to get back to life as normal.”

He described the executive order as “combat[ting] those blocking public health.”

The order specifically requires each agency to “implement, to the extent consistent with applicable law, a program to require COVID-19 vaccination for all of its Federal employees, with exceptions only as required by law.” The Safer Federal Workforce Task Force has seven days to issue guidance on implementation of this requirement for all agencies covered.

According to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the federal workforce is composed of an estimated 2.1 million civilian workers, as of June 2021.

President Biden also issued an executive order Ensuring Adequate COVID Safety Protocols for Federal Contractor. The Safer Federal Workforce Task Force has two weeks to provide definitions of relevant terms for contractors and subcontractors, explanations of protocols required to comply with workplace safety guidance, and any exceptions that apply to contractor and subcontractor workplace locations and individuals in those locations working on or in connection with a Federal Government contract.

Prior to Biden’s address, White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, addressed reporters at a press briefing stating, “There will be limited exceptions for legally recognized reasons such as disability or religious objections … we expect federal employees will have about 75 days to be fully vaccinated. That gives people more than enough time, in our view, to start and complete their vaccination series. If a federal worker fails to comply, they will go through the standard HR process, which includes counseling and face progressive disciplinary action. Each agency’s going to work with employees to make sure they understand the benefits of vaccination, and how the vaccines are free, easy and widely accessible, but it will start to be applied once the executive order is signed.”

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