Biden federal worker vaccination push to affect millions
WASHINGTON, July 29 (Reuters) - U.S. President Joe Biden is expected to take a broad new step to fight the pandemic on Thursday by announcing that civilian federal government employees will need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or take regular testing and mitigation measures.
The move is the latest by Biden, a Democrat, to encourage vaccination against the coronavirus amid growing outbreaks around the country thanks to the fast-spreading Delta variant.
The federal government is the largest employer in the United States and Biden's move could serve as an example for private businesses and other institutions to follow as they assess getting workers back into offices and work places.
Biden's move could have a big impact because of the size of the federal workforce. The United States has about 2.18 million civilian employees and 570,000 others work for the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), according to 2020 data.
The president is expected to announce that all civilian federal workers will need to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or face regular testing, social distancing, mask requirements and travel limits, a source familiar with the matter said.
He will not mandate vaccines for federal employees and those who decide against getting a vaccine will not be at risk of being fired, the source said.
It is not clear if Biden plans to apply the requirement to the postal service or to contractors who work for the federal government. The U.S. government employed 3.7 million contract employees as of 2017, a New York University study found.
The president will deliver remarks on the subject at 4 p.m. (2000 GMT)
Biden's pandemic strategy is coming under scrutiny as the Delta variant spreads and many Americans resist taking the vaccine.
The National Treasury Employees Union, which has 150,000 federal employees in 34 departments and agencies, said that it has supported coronavirus vaccination efforts, including urging agencies to give workers time off to get the jab and recover from any side effects.
"We await more information on the administration’s potential vaccine policy for the federal workforce. Among the details we will be looking for are occupations subject to mandatory vaccinations, how a possible testing program may be rolled out, exemptions for medical or religious reasons, and a timeframe for implementation," said President Tony Reardon in a statement.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs on Monday mandated that its doctors and other medical staff get COVID-19 vaccines, becoming the first federal agency to impose such a requirement.
The VA comprises the largest U.S. healthcare system, employing more than 367,200 full-time healthcare professionals and support staff at 1,293 facilities, according to its website.
GRAPHIC-Tracking coronavirus vaccinations and outbreaks in the U.S.https://graphics.reuters.com/HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/USA-TRENDS/dgkvlgkrkpb/index.html
ANALYSIS-Biden's COVID-19 strategy thwarted by anti-vaxxers, Delta variant
(Reporting by David Shepardson, Jeff Mason and Diane Bartz; Editing by Heather Timmons and Grant McCool)
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