The Biden administration is going to end a slew of COVID-19 vaccine mandates, including its requirement that foreign travelers provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination, officials said on May 1.
The mandate for noncitizen nonimmigrants arriving by air will end on May 12, as will mandates for federal workers and federal contractors, the White House stated.
The proof of vaccination required at U.S. land borders will also end on May 12, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Mandates for Head Start employees and health care facilities certified by federal regulators will also be wound down in the future, the administration stated, although no specific dates were given.
Mandates imposed by some agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, will remain in place for now, the White House told The Associated Press.
The mandates were imposed by President Joe Biden and top deputies in 2021 as the administration tried to increase the number of vaccinated Americans, despite a growing body of evidence that the vaccines bestow transient protection against symptomatic infection and hospitalization.
Some of the vaccination requirements have been blocked by court, including one for federal workers, after judges said they were likely illegal. One for large private employers was struck down by the Supreme Court, and another for members of the military was withdrawn because of a bill passed by Congress.
The White House stated that the mandates “helped ensure the safety of workers in critical workforces including those in the healthcare and education sectors, protecting themselves and the populations they serve, and strengthening their ability to provide services without disruptions to operations,” adding that the mandates “bolstered vaccination across the nation, and [the] broader vaccination campaign has saved millions of lives.”
A White House spokesperson pointed to a blog post from the Commonwealth Fund that was based on modeling.
“White House advisors were not smart. Initially, there was no proof that forcing a third party provided additional benefit to someone who was vaccinated. Then, it was clear by summer 2021 that vaccine cannot hold transmission. Ergo mandate[s] always unethical,” Dr. Vinay Prasad, a professor at the University of California, San Francisco, wrote on Twitter.
Biden is among the officials who have made false claims about the vaccines, which don’t prevent transmission, infection, or severe illness.
Biden previously announced that the COVID-19 public health emergency is going to end on May 12. But it was unclear whether the mandates would be rescinded at the same time.
The COVID-19 national emergency, a similar declaration, ended this month after Biden signed a bill approved by Congress.
The emergency declarations underpinned many of the mandates.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), whose definition of “fully vaccinated” has forced millions of Americans to receive multiple doses of a Moderna or Pfizer vaccine or the single-shot Johnson & Johnson version, just said that foreign travelers would meet the mandated requirements if they received one shot of the unproven, updated Moderna and Pfizer formulations.
Some 81.3 percent of the U.S. population had received at least one vaccine dose as of April 26, according to the CDC. But just 16.8 percent of people had received an updated booster shot, an indication of how unpopular the vaccines have become.
The CDC stated that more than 1.1 million people have died with COVID-19 in the United States, although critics note that the deaths include people who had a different primary cause of death. For the week ending on April 26, though, the death toll was just 1,052—the lowest since March 2020.
“While vaccination remains one of the most important tools in advancing the health and safety of employees and promoting the efficiency of workplaces, we are now in a different phase of our response when these measures are no longer necessary,” the White House stated.