Nurses remove doses of vaccine from a vial while Maryland residents receive their second dose of Moderna coronavirus vaccine at the Cameron Grove Community Center on March 25, 2021 in Bowie, Maryland.
Win McNamee | Getty Images
WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden is expected to announce a new requirement for federal employees to receive the coronavirus vaccine Thursday evening, a source familiar with the matter told NBC News.
The executive order also extends to contractors who work with the US government and affects a total of 2.1 million employees.
The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the decision will be announced during the president’s address at 5 p.m. EST.
Earlier this year, Biden directed all federal employees to prove their coronavirus vaccination status or to undergo a series of strict safety protocols. Thursday’s order will remove the option for rigorous testing, the person said, as the United States struggles to contain the highly contagious Delta variant.
Biden’s decision comes as his government seeks ways to tackle the mutating virus. His campaign to bring the pandemic under control by the summer has largely failed due to vaccination resistance from a significant part of the US population. Infections and deaths are increasing in people who have not been vaccinated.
According to a CNBC analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University, the US is currently recording an average of more than 151,000 new Covid cases per day, far more than the 36,000 cases at the time in the last year before vaccines were available. Almost 1,500 people die on average from Covid every day.
Overall, 62% of the US population have received at least one dose of a vaccine – Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson – while 53% are fully vaccinated.
“This is an American tragedy. People die and will die who don’t have to die, “Biden said during a speech at the White House in July.
“This is not about red and blue states. It’s literally a matter of life and death, ”he said. “With freedom comes responsibility. Your choice to be unvaccinated affects others.”
A broader federal mandate could encourage state governments to follow suit, said Jen Kates, director of global health and HIV policies at the Kaiser Family Foundation. Currently, about 20 states have some sort of vaccine mandate in place for government or health workers, although many people who choose to have regular tests instead have opt-outs.
In July, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced that it would order its health care workers to be vaccinated, making it the first federal agency to issue such a mandate. Veteran Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough described the new measure as “the best way to protect veterans”.
A month later, the Food and Drug Administration fully approved Pfizer and BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine, the first in the United States to receive the coveted award. The mRNA vaccine, marketed as Comirnaty, was on the US market under emergency clearance granted by the FDA in December.
FDA approval was expected to give even more companies, schools, and universities across the country more confidence in accepting vaccine mandates.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 214 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine have been administered. Approximately 96 million people in the United States are fully vaccinated with Pfizer’s two-dose vaccine.
After Pfizer was approved by the FDA, the Pentagon updated its health policy to require all U.S. soldiers and defense companies to receive the coronavirus vaccine.
Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines will continue to be administered under emergency clearances.
CNBC’s Kevin Breuninger contributed to this report from New York.