President Joe Biden said on July 27 that his administration is considering mandating that all federal workers get the COVID-19 vaccine.
“That’s under consideration right now,” Biden said when asked if federal employees should be required to get vaccinated.
Biden was in McLean, Virginia, to address members of the intelligence community.
Biden also blamed people who are unvaccinated for fueling the pandemic, in response to a question about whether the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) new mask guidance has sowed confusion.
“We have a pandemic because of the unvaccinated, and they’re sowing enormous confusion,” Biden said. “And there’s only one thing we know for sure, if those other 100 million people got vaccinated, we’d be in a very different world. So get vaccinated. If you haven’t, you’re not nearly as smart as I said you were.”
The Department of Veterans Affairs says it is invoking a vaccination mandate on its employees, becoming the first federal agency to do so, with Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough stating that it was “because it’s the best way to keep Veterans safe, especially as the Delta Variant spreads across the country.”
California and New York City stated they would also require their government workers to get vaccinated or be tested on a weekly basis.
Opponents of mandatory vaccination say that all three COVID-19 vaccines offered in the United States are only granted emergency use authorization (EUA) and are still waiting to receive full approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) pending the safety and efficacy results of the ongoing phase three trials.
As early as October 2020, Dr. Amanda Cohn, executive secretary of the CDC’s vaccine safety committee, said the federal government can’t force people to receive a vaccine under an EUA.
“I want to thank Dr. [Janell] Routh for her great presentation and clarify one point, which is just for the public record that the federal government cannot mandate vaccines,” Cohn said at the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee meeting (pdf).
“Organizations, such as hospitals, with licensed products do have the capability of asking their workers to get the vaccine. But in the setting of an EUA, patients and individuals will have the right to refuse the vaccine.”
The FDA also said in November 2020 that people “have the option to accept or refuse the vaccine, and of any available alternatives to the product” after being informed of the benefits and risks, and that the vaccines aren’t FDA-approved.
Under the emergency authorization, vaccine manufacturers aren’t held liable for any injury, including death, that their COVID-19 vaccine may cause. A person or a representative of an individual who has been seriously injured has a year after receiving a vaccine to file a claim and prove his or her injury with a federal government program called the Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program.