In light of the Pfizer vaccine receiving full approval from the FDA, President Biden announced an executive order (EO) expanding the Federal workforce vaccine mandate.
The new EO serves as an update to guidance the White House released last month. Under the previous guidance, Federal workers and contractors had to be fully vaccinated or adhere to masking, distancing, and testing requirements. Under the new EO, Federal workers and contractors will not have the option of submitting to regular testing instead of receiving the vaccine.
According to White House officials on Thursday, the mandate will apply to employees of the executive branch, including the White House and all Federal agencies and members of the armed services, but not to those who work for Congress or the Federal court system. The White House noted that it is currently working on compiling the number of unvaccinated Federal workers.
Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, told reporters on Thursday that there would be some disability and religious exemptions for some, but that the vast majority of workers would need to be vaccinated within a 75-day “ramp-up” period. Psaki said that if workers decline to receive shots in that time frame, they will be subject to a human resources process.
“The expectation is if you want to work in the Federal government or want to be a contractor, you need to be vaccinated,” Psaki said.
Biden formally announced the EO during a speech on Thursday. The speech also covered the White House’s new six-prong plan to combat COVID-19. The plan also focuses on vaccinating the unvaccinated, further protecting the vaccinated with booster shots, keeping schools open, increasing testing, requiring masks, protecting economic recovery, and improving care for those with Covid-19.