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Biden Set to Mandate Vaccinations for Federal Workers With No “Opt-Out” Options

Biden will get into the details of the requirements on Thursday when he discusses other pandemic-related actions.

President Joe Biden speaks on workers rights and labor unions in the East Room at the White House on September 8, 2021, in Washington, D.C.

President Joe Biden is expected to sign an executive order on Thursday that will require all federal workers under his purview to be vaccinated for protection against coronavirus.

The requirement would change standards established earlier this summer within the executive branch. Currently, federal workers can opt out of getting a vaccine if they agree to submit to regular testing and provide negative test results to their respective departments or employers to prove they are not spreading the virus.

The new policy would eliminate the opt-out provision, requiring employees to get a vaccine if they wish to continue working for the federal government.

The new requirements will affect the vast majority of the 4 million workers employed by the federal government, including those contracted by the feds through outside organizations and businesses. However, there are some exceptions and workers within the federal judiciary and those employed by Congress are among those who won’t be bound by the executive order.

Additionally, the guidelines will not mark a radical departure from existing rules for workers within several departments of the executive branch. Prior to Thursday’s planned announcement, those within the departments of Defense, Health and Human Services, and Veterans Affairs had already been required to receive vaccines without the opt-out provision other workers were given.

The requirements will be announced in a speech that Biden will give on Thursday night, in which the president plans to outline a six-pronged approach to how the U.S. will address the coronavirus pandemic moving forward. While much optimism was expressed by the White House earlier this year with the rollout of the vaccinations for the virus, the highly contagious Delta variant, coupled with vaccine hesitancy in many parts of the country, have resulted in a dangerous upswing of new cases and hospitalizations throughout the nation.

Two sources speaking to The New York Times on Thursday said that Biden’s main message later in the day will focus on promoting COVID-19 vaccinations as the best way to move toward a return to pre-pandemic normalcy in the U.S.

Most Americans, by greater than a two-to-one margin, support the idea of mandating vaccines for federal workers, according to an Economist/YouGov poll from last month. Fifty-six percent of respondents in that poll said those employed by the federal government should be required to be vaccinated, while just 26 percent disagreed with the idea.

A myriad of studies has shown that vaccines are safe and effective at reducing the spread of the virus. Only 1 in 5,000 vaccinated individuals, per day, are said to be succumbing to “breakthrough” cases of the virus, a lower rate than initially feared and a much lower infection rate than those who are unvaccinated.

Additionally, other studies have demonstrated that unvaccinated individuals are 29 times more likely to need hospitalization versus those who got their COVID shots. Those who do get infected with coronavirus post vaccination are also less likely to spread the virus to others, as opposed to those who are not vaccinated.

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