Biden vaccine authorization faces first test by federal staff
President Joe Biden is advancing a large-scale plan that requires millions of private sector employees to be vaccinated by early next year. But first, he must make sure that his own federal government workers are injected.
According to the President’s executive order, approximately 4 million federal workers will be vaccinated by November 22. Some employees, such as those in the White House, are almost vaccinated. But according to agency and union leaders, other federal agencies have lower rates, especially those related to law enforcement and intelligence. Some resisting workers are digging, filing lawsuits and protesting what they call the White House’s unfair over-expansion.
The upcoming deadline is the first test of Biden’s efforts to promote people’s vaccinations. According to the guidelines issued last week, in addition to the federal worker regulations, another task will take effect in January, with a target of approximately 84 million private sector workers.
On Saturday, a federal appeals court in Louisiana temporarily suspended vaccine requirements for companies with 100 or more workers. The government expressed confidence that the request will withstand legal challenges, partly because its safety rules take precedence over state laws.
“If the President and the government consider these requirements inappropriate and unnecessary, they will not implement them,” surgeon Vivic Mersey said on ABC’s “This Week” program on Sunday. “And of course the government is prepared to defend them.”
If the authorization is successful, they may have the worst reduction in new coronavirus cases since the vaccine was first available, especially last week when it was reported that children aged 5-11 could be vaccinated, making another 64 million people eligible for it. vaccine. But two weeks before the deadline for federal workers, some union leaders representing employees say it is increasingly challenging to persuade people who have not been vaccinated to change their minds.
“I got the vaccine in February. It was my choice. I think it will stop the virus from spreading,” said Corey Trammel, a correctional officer at the Louisiana Department of Prisons and chairman of the local labor union. “But it didn’t. Now I have some people resign because they are tired of the government’s excessive intervention in this area, and they don’t want to be shot. People just don’t trust the government, they just don’t trust the vaccine.”
Vaccines have a good record of safety, and clinical trials and independent reviews have shown that they are very effective in preventing serious illness and death caused by COVID-19. More than 222 million Americans have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and more than 193 million people have been fully vaccinated. More than half of the world’s population has also been vaccinated.
Since the vaccine was first approved, scientists have struggled with the anxiety of this vaccine. An AP-NORC poll conducted earlier this year found that despite guarantees that the vaccine is safe and effective, and there are few serious side effects, one-third of American adults are still skeptical. Approximately 70% of American adults have been fully vaccinated, and 80% have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
The federal government’s vaccination rate is uneven.
Officials from the Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development said they are working to get employees vaccinated, but there are no figures yet.
Rep. Chris Stewart, a member of the House Intelligence Committee and Republican of Utah, said that as of the end of October, at least 20% of employees in some intelligence agencies had not been vaccinated.
Larry Cosme, president of the Federation of Law Enforcement Officers, said that the association has about 31,000 members from 65 federal law enforcement agencies, and he estimates that 60% of them have been vaccinated.
The Department of Homeland Security is a large government agency with more than 240,000 employees. As of the end of last month, approximately 64% of vaccinations had been completed. According to the union representing border patrol agents, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection has received at least 6,000 requests for medical or religious exemptions.
Federal agencies are warning employees about upcoming tasks, providing time for vaccinations and encouraging employees to comply. But if they do not meet the November 22 deadline, they will not be fired. They will receive a “consultation” and have five days to start the vaccination process. Then they may be suspended for 14 days and may eventually be terminated, but this process will take several months.
Republicans think this authorization is too much. The Republicans of the House Oversight Committee wrote in late October that the president’s “authoritarian and extreme authorization violated American freedom, unprecedented in history, and may eventually be deemed illegal.”
In the letter, Kentucky Rep. James Comer and Georgia Rep. Jody Heath stated that if thousands of workers refused and were fired, they were worried that the government would have a large number of job vacancies. People in the already understaffed prison bureau also felt this concern.
A federal union of correctional officers in Florida filed a lawsuit on the task last week, claiming it violated civil rights. Some prison staff said that they felt very painful about the vaccine and did not want to lose their livelihoods or sacrifice their personal beliefs. Officials approaching retirement age are considering leaving instead of being vaccinated.
A prison staff member in West Virginia texted a colleague that the staff member did not want to be a guinea pig and wrote: “If it’s not new, the situation will be different. But it is. And it is. And it is. I don’t want to be your experiment.”
The worker described how painful the decision was. He said, “I cried many times and vomited a lot, and my eyes and stomach hurt.” The worker wanted to know whether it was wrong to resolutely oppose the vaccine.
The chairman of the union, Brandon Judd, said that Border Patrol employees have been instructed to confirm their vaccination status by Tuesday. Judd said that as of Thursday, 49% of Border Patrol agents responded that they had been fully vaccinated, and about 7% reported not being vaccinated.
It is not clear how many people will continue to refuse if they are not granted an exemption and face unemployment as a result.
“When it comes to losing a livelihood or getting vaccinated, I think the vast majority of people will eventually get vaccinated,” Judd said. “We will lose people. How many people are there? I really can’t predict.”