Three years after pandemic began, Biden will lift federal vaccination mandates

President Joe Biden talks about the newly approved COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11 from the South Court Auditorium on the White House complex in Washington on Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021.

The Biden administration announced Monday that it would lift vaccine requirements for federal employees, Federal contractors, and international air travelers on May 11. 

The end of the controversial mandate coincides with the day the administration will end the COVID-19 public health emergency.

“Following a whole-of-government effort that led to a record number of nearly 270 million Americans receiving at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine, we are in a different phase of our response to COVID-19 than we were when many of these requirements were put into place,” the administration wrote in its announcement.

The vaccination requirement for federal contractors and employees was the subject of several lawsuits. In January, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals based in Cincinnati allowed a preliminary injunction on the proposed mandate. 

As recently as last month, the Arizona GOP petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate an injunction on the vaccine mandate for federal contractors while the court challenge continued. 

In March, a group of 10,000 employees challenged the mandate, saying the COVID-19 vaccination requirement violated their religious rights under the Civil Rights Act.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Homeland Security will begin to wind back their vaccination requirement for Head Start educators, CMS-certified healthcare facilities, and certain noncitizens at the land border. 

The administration plans to offer further details on the scaling back of the requirements. 

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