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White House: 92 per cent of Fed workers under mandate are vaccinated

Published:Saturday | November 27, 2021 | 12:07 AM
President Joe Biden
President Joe Biden

WASHINGTON (AP):

The Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for millions of federal workers seems to be working, with no apparent disruption to law enforcement, intelligence-gathering or holiday travel.

On Tuesday, one day after the deadline for compliance, 92 per cent of the 3.5 million federal workers covered by Biden’s mandate reported to the government that they are at least partially vaccinated, according to White House officials.

The highest number of partial vaccinations by Tuesday was at the Agency for International Development, which had 97.8 per cent, followed closely by the Department of Health and Human Services at 96.4 per cent and State Department at 96.1 per cent, according to data provided by the White House Wednesday.

Law enforcement agencies do lag behind in vaccines, with the Justice Department at 89.8 per cent. The Department of Veterans Affairs is at 87.8 per cent of partial vaccinations, though the Defense Department was 93.4 per cent and the Homeland Security Department was 88.9 per cet. The government office with the lowest number of partially vaccinated employees was the Agriculture Department, at 86.1 per cent

But overall, 96.5 per cent of federal employees have been deemed in compliance with the policy, which also includes medical or religious exemptions that are still being evaluated. The rest are considered out of compliance, but officials emphasised that “it’s not a cliff,” and that workers will receive counselling to get vaccinated or file for an exemption. Only then would termination be considered.

“We know vaccine requirements work,” said White House Assistant Press Secretary Kevin Munoz. “We hope that our implementation sends the clear message to businesses to move forward with similar measures that will protect their workforce, protect their customers, and protect our communities.”

White House officials said the data was just a snapshot and the numbers would continue to rise in the days and weeks ahead. As they work through additional vaccines and exceptions, there will be no disruptions to government services, the officials said.

Since instituting the initial vaccine-or-test mandate this summer and then the more-restrictive requirement without a test-out option this fall, the White House has believed the federal government could serve as a model for the rest of the nation’s employers for how vaccinations could help shepherd a quicker return to the normal.

White House officials say the most important lesson for businesses from the federal experience is that once they take the first step toward requirements, their workers will follow.