Since the coronavirus public health emergency ended on Monday, the White House has announced that the Biden administration will suspend most federal COVID-19 vaccine mandates beginning the following week. The government’s new policy of considering COVID-19 an endemic disease.
As of May 11, 2018, vaccinations will no longer be required for federal employees, contractors, or international aviation passengers. The government will no longer demand vaccinations of healthcare personnel, international travelers at U.S. land borders, or Head Start teachers. The mandates, the final bastion of the federal government’s compulsory vaccination programs, were successfully challenged in court on numerous occasions.
In late 2022, after the country’s immunization rate had plateaued despite the emergence of new, more contagious strains of COVID-19, President Biden ordered a gradual rollout of mandatory vaccinations. On September 9, 2021, when the delta strain of the virus made more people sick than ever before, Biden issued orders that would affect approximately 100 million people. Although the President said he would not support such mandates before he took office in January, he has since changed his mind out of concern for the public’s health and the nation’s economic recovery, saying “we have been patient,” but “your refusal has cost us all.”
Large corporations and the military have had their vaccination mandates struck down by federal courts and lawmakers. Independent of the White House, agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, the Indian Health Service, and the Department of Veterans Affairs have mandated vaccinations for healthcare workers and other individuals.
According to the CDC, over 1.13 million people in the U.S. have died of COVID-19 since the pandemic’s onset, including 1,052 in the week ending April 26. However, the country’s healthcare system and public health resources are now much better equipped to respond to the COVID-19 threat and don’t cause access-to-care problems for Americans, said White House COVID-19 coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha. He stated that some of these emergency powers are no longer necessary in the same manner.
Over 270 million Americans, or 81%, have received a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the CDC. Jha noted that some businesses, notably medical facilities, may continue COVID-19 vaccine requirements after government mandates stop. U.S. health officials are considering a long-term COVID-19 response similar to influenza, with annual doses targeting the latest virus strains for the most vulnerable. Since September 2022, less than 56 million, or 17% of eligible people, have received the updated bivalent boosters, which protect against the omicron variant. Jha claimed, “I don’t think mandates are going to be necessary for getting Americans vaccinated against COVID in the future.”
Concerns that the removal of the vaccination requirement for international passengers will lead to the introduction of a novel strain into the United States were downplayed by Jha. Biden has already done away with the need for virus testing for both domestic and international visitors to the United States. The United States is already safeguarded by a traveler genome surveillance program that examines airline wastewater for various viral strains, Jha added. “We feel much more able to identify if a new variant shows up in the United States and respond effectively,” he said. “And I think that’s what makes the need for a vaccine mandate for travelers less necessary right now.”