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Biden orders large numbers of federal workers and contractors to be vaccinated

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Biden orders large numbers of federal workers and contractors to be vaccinated

President Biden will sign executive orders Thursday requiring the vast majority of federal workers and contractors who do business with the government to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. They are part of an aggressive new plan that will pressure private businesses, states and schools to implement stricter vaccination and testing policies as the Delta variant continues to spread across the United States.

The mandate would apply to employees of the Executive Branch, including members of the White House and all federal agencies and the armed services—a task force that numbers more than four million—but not to those who work for Congress or the federal court system, According to a person familiar with the plan.

The spread of the highly infectious form pushed the country’s daily average caseload to more than 150,000 for the first time since late January, overwhelming hospitals in hard-hit areas and killing nearly 1,500 people a day. The surge has worried Mr Biden and his top health advisers, who see mass vaccination as the only way to get the pandemic under control.

Mr Biden, who was briefed by his team of coronavirus advisers on Wednesday afternoon, is set to deliver a 5 p.m. Eastern speech, which will address about six areas where his administration might encourage – or, more to the point, Push more deserving Americans. to receive the vaccines.

Mr Biden had already prompted federal workers to vaccinate by announcing that those who refused would undergo regular coronavirus testing. But with last month’s decision by the Food and Drug Administration to grant full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to people 16 and older, they have called for a more aggressive move, eliminating the option of testing. The decision has been taken, the officials said.

The mandate is a notable change for a president who, in view of the controversial political climate surrounding vaccination, initially shied away from any talk of making vaccines mandatory. But the FDA’s approval – which prompted the Pentagon to require its employees to vaccinate – has clearly strengthened Biden’s hand.

Lawrence O. “Never before have we mandated a vaccine against the federal task force, the National Guard, government contractors, and among businesses and universities and cities and states to use the bully pulpit,” Gostin said. Is.” Professor of Global Health Law at Georgetown University.

Still, Mr. Gostin said, there is much more the president can do. He has already exercised his executive authority to require masks on airplanes and on interstate trains and buses, and may likewise mandate vaccinations for international or interstate travel – a move that Mr. dangling fruit”.

The one thing Mr. Biden can’t do is that all Americans need to be vaccinated; In the United States, vaccination is the province of the states. But Mr. Gostin said the president could also jeopardize the prospect of federal funding by requiring states to vaccinate their own workers, and that his administration could provide technical guidance to states that provide digital evidence to the public. Want to develop “Vaccine Passport”. of vaccination.

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More than 75 percent of American adults have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, but overall, only 53 percent of the public has been fully vaccinated. Bringing up the overall number would require more than cajoling; About 45 million children under the age of 12 are not yet vaccinated. And surveys show that nearly 14 percent of Americans say they’re likely never to be vaccinated.

Two officials familiar with Mr Biden’s plan said its underlying message would be that the only way to return to normalcy was to get as many people vaccinated.

“We know that increasing vaccinations will stop the spread, bring the epidemic under control, bring people back to normal life,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Wednesday. “That’s what we aim for, so we want to be specific about what we’re trying to achieve.”

Asked whether Mr Biden would add more details to existing policies or outline measures that would have an immediate and widespread impact on Americans, Ms Psaki replied: “It depends on whether you have vaccinated.” Or not.”

Administration officials see signs that more people in the United States are open to receiving shots – some 14 million received their first shots in August, four million more than in July, Ms Psaki said. But according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 27 percent of the eligible US population ages 12 and older have not received any COVID vaccination. In some of the hardest-hit states, the percentage without vaccination is high: 42 percent in Texas, for example, and 38 percent in Florida.

Nearly 1.3 million fully vaccinated people have received a third shot after federal officials approved it for people with compromised immune systems. Mr Biden has publicly supported the idea of ​​broadening the availability of third shots as a booster for a greater population, but health experts have advised the White House to stop promoting it for now.

On Wednesday, Ms Psaki said the White House was working towards a plan for the booster, but did not give a time frame. She told reporters that Mr Biden had chosen to deliver a comprehensive speech on the virus on Thursday because he understood it was “top of mind for Americans” as they return to schools and offices.

The president will also seek to correct course for his administration after a difficult month, turning the public away from a chaotic and violent end to the war in Afghanistan and toward his administration’s efforts to curb a pandemic that has hit the US. affected every aspect of Life.

But amid fears of the virus’s damaging impact on the economy and the prevalence of a troubling variant, even Mr Biden’s aides say it will take more than a speech to allay concerns that the virus Once again out of control of the President.

Nick Rathod, a former domestic policy adviser to President Barack Obama, said, “He managed to get the adults back into the room.” “It’s something he needs to control and show his level of competence. I think that’s why he was hired.”

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