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The U.S. government plans to no longer require federal workers or international air travelers to be vaccinated for COVID-19, the Biden administration announced Monday.
The move means vaccines will no longer be required for workers who are federal employees, federal contractors, Head Start early education employees, workers at Medicare-certified health care facilities, and those who work at U.S. borders. International air travelers will also no longer be required to prove their vaccination status. The requirement will be lifted at the end of the day on May 11, which is also when the federal public health emergency declaration ends.
“While vaccination remains one of the most important tools in advancing the health and safety of employees and promoting the efficiency of workplaces, we are now in a different phase of our response when these measures are no longer necessary,” the Monday announcement from the White House stated.
White House officials credited vaccine requirements with saving millions of lives, noting that the rules ensured “the safety of workers in critical workforces including those in the healthcare and education sectors, protecting themselves and the populations they serve, and strengthening their ability to provide services without disruptions to operations.”
More than 100 million people were subject to the vaccine requirement, The Associated Press reported. All but 2% of those covered by the mandate had received at least one dose or had a pending or approved exception on file by January 2022, the Biden administration said, noting that COVID deaths have dropped 95% since January 2021 and hospitalizations are down nearly 91%.
In January, vaccine requirements were lifted for U.S. military members.
On the government-run website Safer Federal Workforce, which helped affected organizations put federal COVID rules into place, agencies were told to “take no action to implement or enforce the COVID-19 vaccination requirement” at this time.
The White House: “The Biden-Harris Administration Will End COVID-19 Vaccination Requirements for Federal Employees, Contractors, International Travelers, Head Start Educators, and CMS-Certified Facilities.”
The Associated Press: “US to lift most federal COVID-19 vaccine mandates next week.”
U.S. Department of Defense: “DOD Rescinds COVID-19 Vaccination Mandate.”
Safer Federal Workforce: “Vaccination.”
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