The Biden-Harris Administration has announced that it will end COVID-19 vaccination requirements for federal employees, contractors, international travelers, Head Start educators, and CMS-certified facilities, effective May 11, 2023.
The decision had been made as COVID-19 deaths have reportedly decreased by 95%, and hospitalizations have dropped by nearly 91% since January 2021. The announcement marks a significant shift in the Administration’s response to the pandemic.
According to the Administration’s press release, “Our Administration’s vaccination requirements helped ensure 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.”
The Biden Administration’s vaccine mandate initially faced resistance and legal challenges from many states and businesses. In November 2021, the Supreme Court heard arguments over whether the mandate was constitutional, ultimately ruling in January 2022 that the mandate could move forward for most businesses, but not for healthcare workers employed by organizations that receive Medicare and Medicaid funding.
The vaccine mandate for federal employees and contractors had a significant impact on the federal workforce. According to a report from the Office of Personnel Management, as of January 2022, 98% of federal employees had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, or had filed an exception or extension request. However, some federal employee unions expressed concerns about the impact of the mandate on employee morale and working conditions.