Nov. 23, 2021 -- More than 90% of federal employees received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose by the Nov. 22 deadline that President Joe Biden announced this fall.
The majority of those employees are fully vaccinated, and another 5% are seeking or already have an exception or an extension. That means 95% of the 3.5 million federal employees who were covered by the vaccine mandate have complied by the Monday deadline.
“We are successfully implementing vaccination requirements for the largest workforce in the United States with federal employees in every part of the nation and around the world,” Jeff Zients, the White House coordinator for COVID-19 response efforts, said during a news briefing Monday.
Officials said the vaccination rate, which includes civilian and military personnel, shows the government won’t see disruptions this holiday season. At the same time, it’s unclear how the estimated 350,000 unvaccinated workers might affect government operations, according to ABC News.
The vaccination rate varies by agency and location. For instance, the White House staff is estimated to be 99% vaccinated, ABC News reported. Vaccine hesitancy is expected to be higher among border patrol units and federal prison workers.
Now agencies will begin a counseling process to encourage workers to get a shot, Zients said. Leaders have been given leeway to decide the next steps.
“To be clear, the goal of vaccination requirements is to protect workers, not to punish them,” Zients said. “So tonight’s deadline is not an endpoint or a cliff. We continue to see more and more federal employees getting their shots.”
The White House Office of Management and Budget is expected to release more details Wednesday, including a breakdown of vaccination rates by agency.
Numerous agencies have high compliance rates, Zients said Monday, meaning employees have either received a shot or filed for an exemption or extension. That includes 93% of the Transportation Security Administration, 98% of the Internal Revenue Service, 99% of the Federal Aviation Administration, 99% of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and 98% of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
The Biden administration has also required employees of government contractors to be vaccinated by Jan. 4. Private employers with 100 or more employees have been ordered to ensure their workers are vaccinated by then or face weekly testing, though a federal appeals court has put the vaccine requirement on hold for now.
“Looking at the federal workforce vaccination data makes one thing obvious: Vaccination requirements work,” Zients said. “They encourage more people to get vaccinated.”