White House: Millions of Federal Contractors Must Be Vaccinated by Dec. 8

Quickly after the Center for Disease Control and Prevention endorsed Covid vaccine booster shots for millions of high-risk and older Americans, President Joe Biden praised the move calling it a “key step” in the fight against the long-running coronavirus pandemic.

“We have the tools to beat Covid-19 if we come together as a country and use the tools we have,” the president said. Biden was seen receiving his booster shortly following his proclamation.

Only hours prior, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky had accepted the recommendations of a panel of advisors and made booster shots of the Pfizer vaccine available for nursing home residents, adults with underlying health problems, and people 65 and older at least six months after the second dose in the two-dose-series.

Director Walensky overruled the advisory panel and did not endorse a booster for at-risk workers, despite the recommendations of her advisors, and brought the CDC in line with the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) recommendations earlier in the week.

Walensky characterized the decision as a “scientific close call.” She pointed out the lengthy and sometimes heated advisory committee meeting after which she issued her recommendation out of concern for the “everyday heroes of our society.”

Federal contractors must get jab

The White House is mandating that all contractors and subcontractors must be fully vaccinated against Covid by Dec. 8.

The mandate will affect millions of individuals employed as federal contractors. According to the White House, “These safeguards will decrease the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, which will decrease worker absence, reduce labor costs, and improve the efficiency of contractors and subcontractors performing work for the Federal Government.”

According to Jason Miller, deputy White House Office of Management and Budget director, the “guidance issued today advances one of the main goals of this science-based plan: getting more people vaccinated.”

Miller added that the new vaccination policy “will decrease worker absence, reduce labor costs, and improve the efficiency of contractors and subcontractors performing work for the Federal Government.”

According to the White House, there are exceptions “in limited circumstances where an employee is legally entitled to an accommodation” due to sincerely held religious beliefs, observances or practices, or because of disability.

The CDC’s booster endorsement is considered a win for the Biden administration in its push to provide booster shots for the remaining American public, which some scientists and health officials have criticized as premature.

Biden previously mandated vaccines for federal contractors and workers by issuing an executive order.

According to Walensky, “Many of our frontline workers, essential workers and those in congregate settings come from communities that already have been hardest hit. Withholding access for boosters from these people and communities would only worsen the inequities I have committed to fight against.”

She continued saying the CDC endorsement of the Pfizer booster is “a first step,” and that the agency planned to review similar applications from Johnson & Johnson and Moderna “with urgency” soon.

Johnson & Johnson and Moderna, the two other currently available vaccines, have not received federal approval for a booster shot.