The deadline for federal contractors to get vaccinated against COVID-19 has been pushed back to Jan. 4 to line up with new requirements for health care workers and other employers, the White House announced on Thursday.
Federal contractors will either need to have their second-dose of the FDA-approved Pfizer vaccine, the second dose of the emergency authorization use Moderna or the single-dose Johnson and Johnson version by Jan. 4, according to a White House statement.
Previously, all federal contractors had to be fully vaccinated — which comes two weeks after the second dose of Moderna or Pfizer, or two weeks after the Johnson and Johnson shot — by Dec. 8, according to White House guidance from September, unless an employee had a legal accommodation.
The deadline was delayed in order to better match the timeline set by the White House Thursday, according to the statement.
Like federal contractors, health care facilities that participate in Medicare or Medicaid will need to have fully vaccinated employees by Jan. 4. Employers with 100 or more employees that fall under Occupational Safety and Health Administration will either need to have fully vaccinated employees or weekly testing, including for those who are exempt, according to a transcript of a Wednesday press call with senior administration officials.
The new guidance will cover 101 million employees, in addition to federal contractors, according to the transcript.
Employers, under OSHA, who willfully violate the vaccination requirements could face a penalty of approximately $14,000 per citation.
“The bottom line is: Vaccination requirements work,” a senior administration official said. “And the actions we’re taking tomorrow will lead to millions of Americans getting vaccinated, protecting workers, saving lives, strengthening our economy, and helping it to accelerate our path out of this pandemic.”
Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro said Thursday the delayed deadline is not a concern and will allow for the shipyards and other federal contractors to work through any vaccination issues.
Del Toro is confident that the vaccination rates among shipyards will rise as they did within the Department of the Navy, he told an audience at the Aspen Institute.
As of Wednesday, 95 percent of active-duty sailors are fully vaccinated, according to the Navy’s COVID-19 numbers.
“It’s a matter of health,” Del Toro said about vaccination. “Health security for themselves and the health security of our own Department of the Navy workforce, too.”
At the same Aspen Institute forum, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger noted the hurdles presented by online disinformation about vaccines.
Very few medical and religious exemptions have been granted by the Marine Corps so far, Berger said. Those who do submit a request for an exemption will typically get an answer back within a week.
“Am I concerned about it? Yeah. I’m concerned about it because we have to be ready to go every day all the time. Every Marine has to be ready to deploy. We are trained, we’re taught that your unit is more important than you are, so our focus has to be on: you need to get the vaccine to take care of yourself, your unit, your family. I mean, we are the ready force. We have to be ready to go.”
Berger said it’s more difficult for the Marine Corps to track the vaccination status of reservists and that the service needs to close the vaccination rate gap between active-duty Marines and reservists.
“Are we still concerned? Yeah, absolutely because they’re spread across of course all of America. Getting them vaccinated – we are one marine corps, active duty and reserve. So it’s important for them to get vaccinated as well. We are concerned though about the disparity, the different between active duty and reserve. That’s got to close. We got to catch up.”
Berger does not believe the force will lose thousands of Marines due to vaccine refusal, but he said he will have to wait until the end of the month to see.
“The approach we took is take all the ambiguity out of it. All of it. It’s black and white from the secretary of defense,” Berger said. “We need to protect ourselves. So, we wrote that instruction to make it clear all the way down, there is no gray area. You must get vaccinated. if you don’t have an exemption, if you don’t have a waiver, you must get vaccinated.”
Vaccinations are not new, President Joe Biden said in a statement about the new guidance.
“Vaccination is the single best pathway out of this pandemic,” Biden said. “And while I would have much preferred that requirements not become necessary, too many people remain unvaccinated for us to get out of this pandemic for good.”
The guidance for federal contractors, employers regulated by OSHA and health care facilities comes on top of a vaccine mandate for federal employees and service members.
Each branch set their own timelines for active-duty members and reservists to be fully vaccinated, with the Navy and Marines setting Nov. 28 as the deadline for active-duty service members. Reservists have until Dec. 28.
If an active-duty sailor or Marine is not fully vaccinated or does not have an exemption by the deadline, they face separation. As of Thursday, the Navy had granted six permanent medical exemptions for the COVID-19 vaccine, said Navy spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Patricia Kreuzberger.
Although the Navy did not release the number of religious exemptions, the service has not granted a religious waiver in the past seven years, USNI News reported this week.
While the deadline for vaccination is Nov. 28, in order to meet the fully vaccinated requirements, an active-duty sailor or Marine will either need to receive a second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine or the Johnson and Johnson single-dose vaccine by Nov. 14.
The earliest vaccine mandate is for Department of Defense civilians, who need to be fully vaccinated by Nov. 22, according to an Oct. 1 Office of Personnel Management memorandum.
In order for employees to meet the deadline, they must get the second dose of Moderna or Pfizer or the Johnson and Johnson version by Nov. 8.
As with military members, DOD civilians can apply for medical and religious exemptions. Those who are not fully vaccinated after Nov. 22, including those who are exempted, will be subject to weekly testing unless they work remotely, according to DOD guidance from Oct. 29.
Those without exemptions who fail to meet the Nov. 22 deadline could face a suspension without pay or be removed from federal service.
The Navy is following DOD guidance, Kreuzberger said, and has not released its own guidance for civilians. While it is planning to do so, there is not a timeline for additional information.
Likewise, the Pentagon has not released additional information for DOD civilian employees, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said during a Thursday press conference.
“We still owe the civilian workforce some additional guidance,” Kirby said.