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Monday marks the deadline for millions of federal employees to provide proof that they’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19. The mandate was imposed by President Biden in an executive order signed back in September.
Federal workers will have all day today to turn in their proof of vaccination. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said experience with other similar mandates in the private sector indicates there could be a last minute rush to meet the requirements and submit paperwork.
“We don’t see it as a cliff,” said Psaki in Friday’s briefing.
For months the White House resisted vaccine mandates out of concern over backlash, but with the delta variant causing a surge in cases and the pace of vaccinations plateauing, Biden signed orders requiring all civilian federal workers and employees of federal contractors to provide proof of vaccination. A similar requirement was instituted for members of the military and people working in nursing homes, hospitals and doctor’s offices.
Although the CDC opened up booster shots to all adults on Friday, for now, the requirement is just for a single dose of the J&J vaccine or two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines. That could change if the CDC updates its definition of fully vaccinated to include boosters.
As for the share of federal workers who have already gotten vaccinated, Psaki said the White House will be crunching the numbers throughout the day. But she insisted they aren’t expecting disruptions caused by people choosing not to be vaccinated.
“No, we do not anticipate facing any governmental operational disruptions due to this requirement,” said Psaki. “And in fact the requirement will avoid disruptions in our view because vaccinations help avoid COVID.”
Heading into a busy travel week, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said his agency is well on its way to a nearly fully vaccinated workforce.
“We’ve seen numbers approaching 99% of people have gotten in their information, per the requirements,” Buttigieg said Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press. “Either they’re…vaccinated, or they’re in the process of it, or they’ve put in a request for an exemption.”
He added that he expected similar numbers “across the board.” The White House is signaling the rate of vaccine uptake among the federal workforce has exceeded expectations. And although the deadline is Monday, workers won’t be pulled off their posts immediately.
“It’s part of a process to make sure that everyone in the federal workforce is safe,” said Buttigieg.
The largest federal employee union AFGE requested earlier this month that the Biden administration align the vaccination deadline for federal workers with the January deadline for employees of federal contractors, arguing it would be bad for morale for employees to face disciplinary action over the holidays. The White House didn’t move either deadline.
But in congressional testimony, AFGE president Everett Kelley pointed to avoiding a government shutdown as “the single most important thing Congress can do to ensure a turbulence-free season.”
Government funding is set to run out Dec. 3 unless Congress passes another funding measure.