05/03/2023 / By Ramon Tomey
The U.S. is set to end its Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination requirements for international travelers and employees working under the federal government.
According to a May 2 report by Reuters, the White House announced that the vaccination requirements for both groups will end on May 11. This will coincide with the conclusion of the COVID-19 public health emergency first declared in March 2020, the outlet added.
“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 said in a statement.
According to NBC News, the White House’s announcement means international travelers who aren’t U.S. citizens or permanent residents no longer need to be fully vaccinated before flying to the United States. The vaccination requirements were originally put in place as part of a larger effort to curb the spread of new COVID-19 variants.
In a separate announcement, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said it will no longer require non-U.S. travelers entering the country via land ports of entry and ferries to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The DHS added that this measure, alongside the abolition of proof of vaccination requirements, will begin on May 12.
In February, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted to lift the requirement that most foreign travelers entering by air be vaccinated against COVID-19. This was one of the few remaining pandemic-era travel restrictions still in place.
In June 2022, the Biden administration dropped its requirement that people arriving by air test negative for COVID-19. However, it kept vaccination requirements recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for most travelers.
One person impacted by the CDC’s vaccination requirement was Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic. The No. 1 men’s tennis player was unable to play in some U.S. tournaments as he has not been injected with the COVID-19 vaccine. But according to the new rules, he could freely enter and play in major American tournaments beginning May 12.
May 11 also marks the end of COVID-19 vaccine requirements for federal workers. First imposed in September 2021 by the Biden administration, the mandates called for employees and contractors to be injected with the COVID-19 vaccine or face disciplinary action – including termination. While medical and religious exemptions were purportedly permitted, many of these requests were rejected.
More than a year later, the White House told federal agencies in October 2022 not to enforce the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for contractors. The order was issued despite the lifting of a nationwide injunction.
The mandate for federal employees has not been enforced for over a year after a series of court rulings. In March, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans blocked the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal employees. The federal court’s decision reversed an earlier ruling that had upheld the vaccination requirement. (Related: BREAKING: Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issues emergency halt to Biden’s unconstitutional vaccine mandate.)
In spite of this legal wrangling, the White House said in its statement that the Biden administration had achieved “98 percent compliance” among the 3.5 million-strong federal workforce.
Moreover, the administration is also rolling back other COVID-related requirements. The Department of Health and Human Services will begin ending vaccination requirements for educators working under the Head Start program and for those working in health care facilities certified by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
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