Nov. 9, 2021 -- Thousands of federal workers have applied for religious exemptions instead of getting a COVID-19 vaccination.
Under President Biden’s sweeping vaccine mandate, unvaccinated workers without an exemption could end up losing their jobs, though it wouldn’t happen right away, The Associated Press reported.
They would receive counseling, be given five days to get a shot and might be suspended for two weeks. The process could take months and processing all the requests would be a burden for administrators.
Complicating matters further, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says that religious objections to vaccines don’t have to stem from an organized religion, The Washington Post reported. The objections can be beliefs that are new, uncommon or “seem illogical or unreasonable to others.”
Federal workers have until Nov. 22 to show proof of full vaccination under Biden’s mandate.
With a two-week waiting period between getting a final shot and achieving full vaccination status, workers would need to get a second dose of the two-dose Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine by Monday, The Washington Post said.
It’s not known exactly how many workers are seeking religious exemptions. The Post said some federal employees have decided to resign or retire rather than get vaccinated.
The ones remaining are often seeking the religious exemptions. Citing union officials, The Post said the number ranges widely from agency to agency, from about 60 at the Education Department to thousands at the Bureau of Prisons.
The Associated Press said law enforcement agencies appear to have lower vaccination rates.
The leader of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association said about 60% of the group’s members were vaccinated. Homeland Security, which has about 240,000 employees, was 64% fully vaccinated at the end of October, The AP said.
Brandon Judd, president of a union for Border Patrol agents, told the AP that 49% of agents say they’re fully vaccinated and about 7% reported not being vaccinated.
“When it comes down to losing your livelihood or getting vaccinated, I think the vast majority are going to ultimately get vaccinated,” Judd said. “We are going to lose people. How many? I really couldn’t predict that.”