Jeff Zients, the Biden administration’s COVID-19 response coordinator, said during a briefing that the statistical benchmark suggests the United States is making progress on the pandemic. Previously, Zients and other Biden administration officials have suggested that mandates and vaccine passport systems are the reason why vaccination numbers have increased.
“These are important milestones,” Zients said. “We know vaccines are the very best tool we have to accelerating our path out of the pandemic.”
It comes as the White House released more guidance on how federal contractors should handle mandates, appearing to give them expanded flexibility. Some trade associations, in recent weeks, have warned that COVID-19 mandates could trigger chaos across shipping and supply lines, while some have asked the White House to delay them.
“A covered contractor should determine the appropriate means of enforcement with respect to its employee at a covered contractor workplace who refuses to be vaccinated and has not been provided, or does not have a pending request for, an accommodation,” according to the guidelines, published on the Safer Federal Workforce website.
The guidelines also stipulate that government contractors, which include large companies such as Boeing and IBM, “are expected to comply with all requirements set forth in their contract.” Failure to do so, it added, “significant actions, such as termination of the contract, should be taken.”
In the same announcement, Zients added that the federal government has also obtained significant amounts of Pfizer’s smaller-dose vaccine for children aged 5 to 11 after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last week approved giving the vaccine to the age group. The government’s program for the youngest age group will go operational on Nov. 8, he said during a news conference.
“On Friday, within minutes of FDA’s authorization, we began the process of moving 15 million doses from Pfizer’s freezers and facilities to distribution centers,” Zients said, suggesting that the vaccines will be distributed soon. “The bottom line is we’ve been planning and preparing for this moment.”
Before that happens, though, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will meet Tuesday to give the final approval before the shots are distributed.
Federal officials, Zients said, are planning to ship the vaccine doses to pediatricians, drug stores, and other health centers after the CDC approves it.