How’s That Vaccine Mandate Working for the Federal Government?

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The Biden administration’s “vaccine or test” mandate for federal workers appears to be a success, with over 90% of workers receiving at least one dose of the vaccine, according to an agency-by-agency breakdown released by the White House on Wednesday.

As of November 23, approximately 92% of the 3.5 million federal workers in the U.S. have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. In addition, 96.5% of workers have complied with the order, meaning that they have either been vaccinated, have received an exception, or have submitted a request for an exception that is pending.

Topping the charts was the Agency for International Development, where 97.8% of workers received at least one dose of vaccine. The Department of Health and Human Services (96.4%) and the National Science Foundation (96.2%) placed second and third, respectively.

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra congratulated his department for its part in complying with the administration’s mandate.

“As the federal agency tasked with developing COVID-19 guidance for hundreds of millions of Americans, it is important that we follow the same guidance,” Becerra said in a press release.

Approximately 95% of the roughly 88,000 federal workers at HHS are fully vaccinated, he said.

The Department of Agriculture had the lowest vaccination rate of the two dozen agencies listed, with 86.1% of employees having received at least one shot. Only five other agencies had vaccination rates under 90%, including:

  • Social Security Administration: 87.7%
  • Department of Veterans Affairs: 87.8%
  • Department of the Interior: 88.3%
  • Department of Homeland Security: 88.9%
  • Department of Justice: 89.8%

“This week’s deadline wasn’t an end point,” the White House press release noted. “For those employees who are not yet in compliance, agencies are beginning a period of education and counseling, followed by additional enforcement steps, consistent with guidance from the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force and the Office of Personnel Management.”

Compliance, defined as those who have been vaccinated, received an exemption or tested weekly, was highest among the Department of Transportation (99.6%), followed closely by the Department of Commerce (99.4%).

Neither the White House press release nor the HHS press release included specific vaccination rates by individual office, for example the FDA, CDC, or NIH.

However, Becerra hinted, in a press statement, that “some of our largest Divisions surpass[ed] the Department-level vaccination rate.”

At a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions hearing in early November, Republican senators pressed CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, for the number of CDC staff that have been vaccinated to date, and she responded that her office is “actively working on collecting that data.”

More granular data of individual office and sectors by agency will be released next week, according to the White House.

The administration’s federal vaccine mandate for private employers remains on hold, pending an appeal to the federal court.

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    Shannon Firth has been reporting on health policy as MedPage Today’s Washington correspondent since 2014. She is also a member of the site’s Enterprise & Investigative Reporting team. Follow

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