US President Joe Biden has said his administration is considering a mandate that requires all federal workers to be vaccinated against Covid-19, escalating the push for vaccination amid the rampant spread of the Delta variant and still-high vaccine hesitancy rates in parts of the country.
“That’s under consideration right now,” he said on Tuesday in response to a reporter’s question at an appearance. “If you’re not vaccinated, you’re not nearly as smart as I thought you were.”
“On Thursday, I will lay out the next steps in our effort to get more Americans vaccinated,” the president said in a statement issued afterward, Xinhua reported.
Biden’s remarks came against the backdrop of waning vaccination rates in the country despite wide availability of the shots, and as the spread of the more transmissible Delta variant caused a worrisome uptick in caseloads.
There are some 4 million employees in total in the executive branch of the federal government, including civilian workers, men and women in uniform, as well as Postal Service personnel, according to government estimates updated in June. It’s not yet clear whether the federal vaccine mandate being discussed will apply to members of the military.
The Department of Veterans Affairs on Monday announced mandatory vaccination requirement for its healthcare workers, making it the first federal agency to impose such an order.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), meanwhile, updated its mask guidance Tuesday, now asking fully vaccinated people and kids to wear masks indoors in places with high COVID-19 transmission rates.
Biden in the statement urged Americans to follow the CDC’s new guidance, calling the change “another step on our journey to defeating this virus.”
“I hope all Americans who live in the areas covered by the CDC guidance will follow it; I certainly will when I travel to these areas,” read Biden’s statement.