© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A nurses fills up syringes for patients as they receive their coronavirus disease (COVID-19) booster vaccination during a Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination clinic in Southfield, Michigan, U.S., September 29, 2021. REUTERS/Emily Elconin/File Photo
By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House is set to announce Monday that more than 90% of 3.5 million federal employees covered by a presidential COVID-19 vaccine mandate have received at least one vaccine dose ahead of a Monday deadline, Biden administration officials told Reuters.
In total, the administration has deemed 95% of federal workers comply with its requirements in that either they have been vaccinated or are completing vaccinations, or they have a pending religious or medical exemption request, the officials said.
They declined to disclose the total number of fully vaccinated federal employees but said the “vast majority” of the 90% have received both doses.
The figures suggest relatively high vaccination rates for federal employees compared with the U.S. population as a whole and underscores the Biden administration effort to get every American inoculated in an effort to eliminate COVID-19.
Officials stressed the final numbers will change as employees continue to submit documentation until the deadline later on Monday and all employee submissions may not yet have been processed. However, the figures suggest that potentially 175,000 federal employees may not be vaccinated and are not yet in compliance with the rules.
The administration has repeatedly said that it will not immediately seek to suspend or fire unvaccinated employees. Officials said the fact that thousands of employees have not yet complied will not affect holiday travel or government services.
“There won’t be any disruptions to government services and operations,” one official told Reuters Sunday. “There aren’t going to be any disruptions to holiday travel from the vaccination requirement.”
The Biden administration has determined 99% of employees at the Federal Aviation Administration, nearly 98% of Customs and Border Protection and nearly 93% of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees are in compliance with the vaccine and exemption requirements, the officials said, adding nearly 99% of employees at the Federal Bureau of Investigation were in compliance.
On Nov. 1, the Pentagon said 97% of the active-duty force had received at least one COVID-19 dose.
The vaccine mandate imposed by President Joe Biden in September does not cover federal employees in the judicial, legislative branch or the U.S. Postal Service.
The White House has told agencies that for federal employees not in compliance, agencies should begin “a brief period of education and counseling” to last five days and if employees do not “demonstrate progress toward becoming fully vaccinated” that “should be followed by a short suspension” of no more than 14 days. If an employee gets a first shot, agencies are directed to halt any disciplinary action.
Officials are confident that as the disciplinary process begins, a rising number of federal employees will get vaccinated.
On Wednesday, the White House Office of Management and Budget will release agency-by-agency data that will include the number of fully vaccinated employees, those with one COVID-19 dose and those seeking exemptions from 24 major federal agencies like the Defense Department, Transportation Department, Health and Human Services and others. More granular data will be released in the following week.
Employees who have an exemption request denied have two weeks to get their first shot and another six weeks to get their second.
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