CORONAVIRUS VACCINES

Biden vaccine mandate: What happens if a federal worker doesn't want be vaccinated?

In response to the spread of the Delta variant the White House is preparing to introduce new vaccination requirements for 2.5 million federal employees.

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Biden vaccine mandate: What happens if a federal worker doesn't want be vaccinated?
KEVIN LAMARQUE REUTERS

On Thursday President Biden will give a White House address outlining new, more stringent vaccine rules for federal workers. CNN report that he is set to sign an executive order requiring all employees of the federal government to be vaccinated, removing the regular testing alternative.

This marks a notable tightening of Biden’s resolve and gives federal workers 75 days to get fully vaccinated or face the prospect of losing their jobs.

The new rules will also apply to employees of contractors who do business with the federal government and will bring other departments in line with the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the National Institutes of Health, who had all previously announced the introduction of mandates.

What do the new rules mean for federal employees?

The White House estimates that the vaccine mandate will cover around 2.5 million workers and it is considered vital to ensuring that the United States can begin to bring the Delta variant under control.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday White House press secretary Jen Psaki made clear that vaccination remains the government’s top priority: “We know that increasing vaccinations will stop the spread of the pandemic, will get the pandemic under control, will return people to normal life."

Reports released so far have offered few specifics on how the plan would be enforced, but it is thought that workers refusing to get vaccinated risk losing their jobs. On Thursday, Psaki added that those who fail to comply "will go through the standard HR process, which includes counselling and will face progressive disciplinary action."

The move towards mandates has been emboldened by the Food and Drug Administration’s decision last month to issue full approval for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The White House believes that the full authorisation, as opposed to the emergency use authorisation which preceded it, reduces the risk of any legal challenges to the mandate.

Biden issues vaccine mandate in response to GOP opposition

The spread of the highly infectious Delta variant has meant that by early September the number of average daily cases in the US had exceeded 150,000 for the first time since January. Hospitals are again reaching breaking point and around 1,500 people are losing their lives to covid-19 every day.

However many Republican governors across southern states have rushed to impose legislation banning local authorities and businesses from introducing their own mandates for covid-19 protocols. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has prevented local governments and school districts from introducing mask requirements in the state, while Gov. Greg Abbott last week renewed an order banning vaccine mandates in Texas.

Biden has urged Republican governors to “get out of the way” and allow local businesses and services to introduce the additional precautions as they see fit. However Sen. Ted Cruz, a close ally of Abbott’s, dismissed the introduction of vaccine requirements, saying: “Freedom is good policy and good politics.”