According to Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, Biden will sign an executive order to mandate vaccinations for federal employees and contractors doing business with the federal government. This comes just weeks after he made it mandatory that federal workers be vaccinated or undergo rigorous testing and masking protocols.
This news comes just two months after the president declared the nation "independence" prematurely, the speech on Thursday afternoon will outline a six-pronged strategy to address the recent rise in coronavirus infections and the slowing pace of COVID-19 injections.
Biden, after months of using promotion to increase the vaccination rate is becoming more rigid.
Psaki stated that Biden's "overarching goal here is to decrease the number of unvaccinated Americans," pointing out that about 80 million Americans are still unvaccinated.
According to Psaki, Biden's order allows for exemptions for workers and contractors who are seeking religious or medical exemptions. Federal workers and contractors have 75 days to be fully vaccinated. Non-compliance will result in a referral to the human resources department of their agency for counseling and discipline. This could include termination.
Psaki stated that the federal workforce is a "model" for other businesses and organizations.
Biden will also outline plans for increasing virus testing in schools to maintain safety. This is in addition to other measures to show his administration is working hard to combat the alarming increase in COVID-19, which he blames for last month’s weaker than expected jobs report. As some of the pandemic safety net protections expire, Biden warned that the surge could further threaten the country's economy.
Biden encouraged COVID-19 vaccinations in schools, workplaces, and universities. The White House hopes that the federal mandate will encourage more businesses to adopt the policy. The Los Angeles Board of Education will vote Thursday on whether to require all students aged 12 or older to receive full vaccinations in the country's second largest school district.
The Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Health and Human Services as well as the Indian Health Service and National Institutes of Health had previously issued vaccine requirements for large numbers of staff. Last month, the Pentagon made it mandatory that all military personnel get vaccinated. The White House estimates that these requirements will cover nearly 2.5 million Americans. Thursday's order will have a significant impact on nearly 2 million federal employees and possibly millions of contractors.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 208 million Americans have had at least one COVID-19 vaccination. 177 million have been fully vaccinated. However, confirmed cases of the disease have increased to about 140,000 per day, with an average of 1,000 Americans being infected daily.
A AP-NORC survey conducted in August showed that 55% of Americans support the requirement for government workers to have full vaccinations. 21% were opposed.
The majority of the spread and most severe illnesses and deaths are occurring in those who have not been fully vaccinated against this virus. Although these so-called breakthrough infections can occur in people who have been vaccinated, they are far less serious than the more severe cases.
The U.S. is experiencing 300% more COVID-19 infection cases per day than last year. There are also nearly twice as many deaths. Dr. Leana Wein, a former Baltimore commissioner of health, commented regularly on the pandemic.
Wen stated that "we cannot accept this as the new normal." It will lead to 500,000 deaths per year if the pandemic goes on unabated. "Surely, no one wants that."
Wen is urging the White House for a more rigid approach to vaccine requirements. This includes the use of vaccine passports for travel and workplace mandates that allow little room for error.
She stated that she wanted to see the full power of federal government and not just half measures. "I want to see a complete reset by the Biden administration and not more niggling around the edges."
Federal officials are moving forward with plans to start administering booster shots for the mRNA vaccines in order to increase protection against the more transmissible Delta variant. Biden last month announced that they would be available starting on Sept. 20. However, only the Pfizer vaccine will likely receive regulatory approval for a third dose. Moderna is being asked for additional information by federal regulators, which will likely delay the booster approval of its vaccine until October.
Officials plan to give the booster shots eight months after the second dose.