by Zeke Miller and Colleen Long
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for millions of federal employees is in the works, with no apparent disruption to law enforcement, intelligence, or holiday travel.
On Tuesday, a day after the compliance deadline, 92% of the 3.5 million federal employees covered by Biden’s mandate told the government they had been at least partially vaccinated, according to White House officials.
According to data provided by the White House on Wednesday, the highest number of partial vaccinations as of Tuesday was at the Agency for International Development, with 97.8%, followed by the Department of Health and Human Services at 96.4% and the State Department at 96.1%. ,
Law enforcement agencies are behind on vaccines, with 89.8% of the Justice Department. The Department of Veterans Affairs is at 87.8% of partial vaccinations, although the Department of Defense was at 93.4% and the Department of Homeland Security at 88.9%. The government office with the lowest number of partially vaccinated employees was the Department of Agriculture at 86.1%.
But overall, 96.5% of federal employees are deemed to be in compliance with the policy, including medical or religious exemptions that are still being evaluated. The rest are considered out of compliance, but officials stress that “it’s not a cliffhanger,” and that workers will receive counseling on whether to vaccinate or file for exemptions. Only then will the dismissal be considered.
“We know the vaccine requirements work,” said White House assistant press secretary Kevin Munoz. “We hope our implementation sends a clear message to businesses to move forward with equitable measures that will protect their workforce, protect their customers and protect our communities.”
White House officials said the data was only a snapshot and the numbers would continue to rise in the coming days and weeks. As they work through additional vaccines and exceptions, there will be no disruption to government services, officials said.
Since the establishment of an initial vaccine-or-testing mandate this summer and then this fall’s more-restrictive requirement without a trial-out option, the White House believes the federal government is a step forward for the rest of the country’s employers. Can serve as a model for how vaccination can help a shepherd return to normal quickly.
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 through.
Internal Revenue Service figures show how a mandate can boost vaccination rates. About 25% of the agency’s staff got a shot for the first time since Biden announced the mandate in September; Now, 98% are in compliance.
Agencies with moderately low vaccination rates tend to have widely dispersed workforces, providing education and counseling about the benefits of vaccines – or even the task of self-reporting workers that they already have. Have gotten a shot – more difficult.
There is still some resistance. The union representing federal prison workers filed a lawsuit Tuesday seeking to block the mandate, arguing it is an unfair labor practice and violates employees’ free speech and privacy rights. Shane Fossey, president of the Council of Prison Locals, said in a letter to members that more than 3,500 Federal Bureau of Prisons employees – about 10% of the agency’s staff – were being issued advisory letters and potential for non-compliance. was facing termination. Government Order.
Fauci’s letter reiterated misinformation about the vaccine, claiming that it does not prevent the spread of COVID-19 and that it does not reduce the “overall adverse medical effects of the virus”. Lawyers Bruce Castor and Michael van der Veen, who represented former President Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial, are representing the union.
Republican Representative Chris Stewart of Utah, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said as of late October, many intelligence agencies apparently didn’t have at least 20% of employees vaccinated.
Some of the initial fears about the vaccination status of the federal workforce stemmed from employees without access to government computers to certify their vaccinations. Some, such as front-line Transportation Security Administration officers, rarely use government computers. Others are in the field or are late in responding to surveys or starting vaccinations.
The federal vaccination rate exceeds the vaccination rate for all Americans. About 82.2% of American adults, or more than 212 million people, have received at least one dose. About 71% of them, or more than 183 million, are fully vaccinated.
___ Associated Press writer Michael R. Sisak contributed to this report.