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U.S. to Drop Most COVID Vaccine Mandates Next Week as Emergency Ends

By Cara Murez HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, May 2, 2023 (HealthDay News) – The Biden Administration announced on Monday that it will lift most federal COVID vaccine mandates next week, as the pandemic public health emergency ends on May 11.

Foreign travelers to the United States, Head Start educators, healthcare workers and noncitizens at the U.S. border will see vaccine mandates lifted. Such mandates have already been lifted for Congress and the federal court system.

“While I believe that these vaccine mandates had a tremendous beneficial impact, we are now at a point where we think that it makes a lot of sense to pull these requirements down,” White House COVID-19 coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha told the Associated Press on Monday.

Mandates will continue for many National Institutes of Health employees, as well as those at the Indian Health Service and Department of Veterans Affairs. Those agencies have their own requirements and will review them, the White House said.

More than 1 million Americans have died of COVID-19 since early 2020, including 1,052 the week ending April 26, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“COVID continues to be a problem,” Jha said. “But our healthcare system or public health resources are far more able to respond to the threat that COVID poses to our country and do so in a way that does not cause problems with access to care for Americans.”

The vaccine mandates divided the country when Biden ordered them to try to prevent new coronavirus cases as highly transmissible variants were spreading. At one point, they covered more than 100 million workers, the AP reported.

Some employers, especially medical facilities, may choose to continue their own mandates, Jha noted. The hospital where he works has had a flu vaccine requirement for employees for 20 years, he said.

“Some of these emergency powers are just not necessary in the same way anymore,” Jha said.

Jha also said that ending the vaccination requirement for international travelers was not expected to increase the risk of a new variant arriving in this country. The federal government had already lifted testing requirements for both American citizens and foreign travelers, the AP reported.

“We think that we are much more able to identify if a new variant shows up in the United States and respond effectively,” Jha said. “And I think that’s what makes the need for a vaccine mandate for travelers less necessary right now.”

Jha said the goal now is to continue to encourage vaccinations.

“We don’t have a national mandate for flu vaccines in the same way, and yet we see pretty good uptake of flu vaccines,” Jha said. “The goal here really is to continue to encourage people to get vaccinated, but I don’t think mandates are going to be necessary for getting Americans vaccinated against COVID in the future.”

More information

The World Health Organization has more on COVID-19.

SOURCE: White House, news release, May 1, 2023; Associated Press

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