The Biden administration is steering clear of the controversy over vaccinations being required to work in some plants and offices. The Safer Federal Workforce task force is recommending that everyone gets vaccinated but will not compel individuals to get jabbed as a condition of working in a federal building.
“At present, COVID-19 vaccination should generally not be a pre-condition for employees or contractors at executive departments and agencies to work in-person in Federal buildings, on Federal lands, and in other settings as required by their job duties,” the guidance reads.
The guidance also states that employees will not be required to disclose whether or not they’ve been vaccinated. But if employees volunteer the information that they’re not vaccinated, they will have to wear a mask and practice social distancing.
The task force guidance for federal agencies comes after the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission put out its own guidance this month saying that companies are permitted to require vaccines of employees who return to the office.
But so far many private companies have held back, wary of the fraught politics surrounding vaccine mandates and the untested legal issues involving vaccines cleared under the Food and Drug Administration’s emergency authority.
The new federal workforce guidance — the first government-wide statement of policy on these issues — did not state why the administration has determined that it should not require vaccination.
A pattern is emerging in the Biden White House of avoiding — if at all possible — controversial policies that would get either the right or the left riled up. In hyper-partisan Washington, that’s a pretty sensible policy.
That a vaccine should not be required for work is the right thing to do, regardless of whether it’s politically sound or not.
The Defense Department, the largest federal agency, said in April that managers generally should not ask employees about their vaccination status. An exception, it said, would be to determine “how long an employee with a known or suspected exposure must temporarily remain out of the workplace.”
That department is one of the few that collects and posts data on vaccinations among its employees: Out of a civilian workforce of some 770,000, about 250,000 are fully vaccinated and an additional 60,000 are partly vaccinated, according to the latest figures. The actual total is probably greater because those numbers only include employees who were vaccinated through the Defense Department or who reported being vaccinated elsewhere.
The CDC has just completed its first “real world” study of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines and has determined they reduce the infection risk by 91 percent. And the overwhelming majority of vaccinated people who are infected with Covid-19 have shorter illnesses and are less likely to spread the virus.
What’s significant about this study is that it tracked health care workers and first responders — people who are guaranteed to be exposed to the coronavirus constantly. Most of us aren’t exposed daily or hourly to Covid patients, which makes the effectiveness of the vaccines all the more impressive.