90% of US federal employees have received at least one Covid-19 vaccine dose: White House

The figures suggest relatively high vaccination rates for federal employees compared with the US population as a whole.
The figures suggest relatively high vaccination rates for federal employees compared with the US population as a whole.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The White House confirmed on Monday (Nov 22) that more than 90 per cent of the 3.5 million federal employees covered by a presidential Covid-19 vaccine mandate had received at least one dose ahead of a Monday deadline.

In total, the administration has deemed that 95 per cent of federal workers have complied with its requirements in that they have either been vaccinated, are completing vaccinations or have a pending religious or medical exemption request, the White House said.

Officials declined to disclose the total number of fully vaccinated federal employees, but said the "vast majority" of the 90 per cent had received both doses.

White House officials on Monday confirmed the figures first reported by Reuters.

The figures suggest relatively high vaccination rates for federal employees compared with the United States population as a whole, and underscore the Joe Biden administration's effort to get every American inoculated in a drive to bring Covid-19 under control.

Officials said the final numbers would change as employees continue to submit documentation until the deadline later on Monday, and as all employee submissions may not yet have been processed.

The figures suggest that potentially 175,000 federal employees may not be vaccinated and are not yet in compliance with the rules.

The administration has repeatedly said that it will not immediately seek to suspend or fire unvaccinated employees.

Officials said the fact that thousands of employees had not yet complied would not affect holiday travel or government services.

"Already 95 per cent of (US government) employees are in compliance with the President's vax requirement. There are no disruptions related to the requirement," White House spokesman Kevin Munoz said on Twitter.

White House Covid-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said 99 per cent of employees at the Federal Aviation Administration, and nearly 98 per cent of Customs and Border Protection and 93 per cent of Transportation Security Administration employees are in compliance with the vaccine and exemption requirements.

"Looking at the federal workforce vaccination data makes one thing obvious: Vaccination requirements work," Mr Zients said.

Mr Zients added that 99 per cent of employees at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and 98 per cent at the Internal Revenue Service and 99 per cent of employees in the White House Executive Office of the President are in compliance.

On Nov 1, the Pentagon said 97 per cent of the active duty force had received at least one Covid-19 dose.

The vaccine mandate imposed by President Biden in September does not cover federal employees in the judicial and legislative branches or the US Postal Service.

The White House has said that for federal employees not in compliance, agencies should begin "a brief period of education and counselling" to last five days.

If employees do not "demonstrate progress towards becoming fully vaccinated", that should be followed by "a short suspension" of no more than 14 days. If an employee gets a first shot, agencies are directed to halt any disciplinary action.

Officials are confident that as the disciplinary process begins, a rising number of federal employees will get vaccinated.

On Wednesday, the White House Office of Management and Budget will release agency-by-agency data on vaccinated employees and those in compliance with the rules from 24 major federal agencies like the Defence Department, Transportation Department, Health and Human Services and others. More granular data will be released in the following week.

Employees who have an exemption request denied have two weeks to get their first shot and a further six weeks to get their second.