This story has been updated on Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021 at 6 p.m. with additional details of the two executive orders mandating vaccines for federal employees and contractors.
The Biden administration is toughening its vaccination policy for the federal workforce.
President Joe Biden has signed an executive order requiring COVID-19 vaccines for all federal employees.
“The health and safety of the federal workforce, and the health and safety of members of the public with whom they interact, are foundational to the efficiency of the civil service,” the executive order, released Thursday evening, reads. “I have determined that ensuring the health and safety of the federal workforce and the efficiency of the civil service requires immediate action to protect the federal workforce and individuals interacting with the federal workforce.”
Biden signed a second order extending the requirement to federal contractors.
“If you want to work with the federal government and do business with us, get vaccinated,” Biden said Thursday evening in a speech announcing his plans. “If you want to do business with the federal government, vaccinate your workforce.”
The order mandating vaccines for the federal workforce is brief. It simply requires executive branch agencies to stand up a program requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for all federal employees. The order specifically excluded the Government Accountability Office, which is part of the legislative branch.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said federal employees will have 75 days to get vaccinated. Agencies will provide counseling to those who fail to comply, and employees may face “progressive discipline,” in accordance with the government’s traditional personnel policies, she added.
Federal employees will have the opportunity to request a medical or religious accommodation, Psaki added.
This is a change from the administration’s current policy, which asked federal employees to attest to their vaccination status. Those who are unvaccinated or decline to attest to their status were supposed to face weekly testing requirements, though it’s unclear how many agencies have physically established testing regimes since the Biden administration made its original announcement near the end of July.
The Safer Federal Workforce Task Force will provide guidance on the new policy within seven days, according to the order.
The task force last week told agencies they should not ask employees to provide proof of vaccination, but Psaki said Thursday individual agencies will choose whether to ask for documentation.
The departments of Defense, Health and Human Services, and Veterans Affairs have already required vaccinations for many of their employees. The Veterans Health Administration is asking employees to submit proof of vaccination if they received their doses outside of a VA facility.
Those agencies, including the Indian Health Service and the National Institutes of Health, will continue to implement their vaccine policies as planned for roughly 2.5 million employees and servicemembers, the source said.
The Pentagon added the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of required immunizations for service members at the end of August, just days after the Food and Drug Administration gave the Pfizer vaccine full approval.
Employees at VHA have until Oct. 8 to get vaccinated or request a medical or religious accommodation, the agency told Federal News Network last week. Those who fail to comply may face disciplinary action after the October deadline.
Second order requires new contract requirements
The order requiring vaccines for federal contractors is more complex. It directs agencies to include a specific clause…