Some 90% of federal employees are at least partially vaccinated by deadline, White House says

More than 90% of federal employees have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by the president’s deadline, a senior administration official said Monday.

Most of those employees are fully vaccinated, the Biden administration said. All told, some 95% of employees have taken steps to comply with the Biden administration’s federal vaccine mandate by the Nov. 22 deadline — a figure that includes partially and fully vaccinated employees, as well as those who have a medical or religious exception pending or approved.

“Critically, the Nov. 22 deadline is not an end point; we continue to see more and more federal employees providing their information and getting their shots,” the administration official said in an email.

Agencies will continue to collect information, as well as requests for exceptions “due to documented medical necessities” in the coming days, the White House said.

The Office of Management and Budget will release a more detailed breakdown of vaccination rates within individual agencies on Wednesday.

The Biden administration gave employees until Nov. 22 to be fully vaccinated or submit a request for a medical or religious accommodation from the federal vaccine mandate. A few agencies, which included the Veterans Health Administration, had their own mandates and set their own, earlier deadlines.

Late last week, the administration’s Safer Federal Workforce Task Force said federal buildings owned or leased by the General Services Administration will not make an employee or contractor’s vaccination status a condition of entry to government facilities.

“Security officers at GSA-controlled facilities will admit any federal employee with a valid PIV card to the facility without requiring onsite proof of vaccination,” the task force wrote in a set of newly updated frequently asked questions. “Enforcement of applicable workplace safety protocols, including any required testing for federal employees with approved or pending exceptions, are the responsibility of occupant agencies.”

Federal contractors have until Jan. 18 to comply with the administration’s vaccine mandate. After that date, GSA-controlled facilities will admit any contractor with a valid of PIV card into the building without asking their vaccination status.

Again, it’ll be up to each agency to enforce masking, social distancing and possible testing requirements for unvaccinated contractors or those who aren’t subject to the administration’s federal vaccine mandate, the task force said.

The federal vaccine mandate prompted concerns from some employee groups and a handful of lawsuits from both employees and contractors. Most of those lawsuits are still pending. A federal district court in the District of Columbia denied two separate groups of federal employee and contractor plaintiffs a chance at earning immediate injunctive relief from the mandate earlier this month.

The Biden administration has consistently said the federal vaccine mandate won’t disrupt government services and operations, a message it reiterated Monday.

“For the small percentage of employees who have not complied, or who do not have a pending or approved exception or extension request, agencies are beginning an education and counseling process, followed by additional enforcement steps over time if needed,” the administration said.

At the Transportation Security Administration, 93% of the workforce has complied with the administration’s federal vaccine mandate, while 99% of Federal Aviation Administration employees are in compliance.

Some 98% of the Customs and Border Protection workforce has complied with the federal vaccine mandate. At the IRS, 98% of employees have complied, a figure the National Treasury Employees Union said includes management.

“Drawing on our expertise in civil service law and the contracts we have in place at 34 agencies, NTEU has equipped our chapter leaders with the information they need to answer employee questions about their choices and the consequences of those choices,” Tony Reardon, the union’s national president, said Monday. 

NTEU said it continues to discuss the policies surrounding the federal vaccine mandate with the Biden administration.

“We are actively engaging the agencies where we represent employees regarding the implementation, including the reasonable accommodations process and progressive discipline,” Reardon added. “NTEU shares the administration’s goal of encouraging vaccinations and ensuring the safety of the federal workforce. We are reminding agencies that the goal — as stated by the administration — is to get employees vaccinated, not to have them fired.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story. 

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