08 May 2023
The administration of President Joe Biden says it will end most remaining federal COVID-19 vaccine requirements on May 11.
That date was chosen in February by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to end the country's Public Health Emergency for COVID-19.
Vaccine requirements for federal workers and federal contractors will end on May 11. In addition, foreign air travelers to the United States will no longer be subject to existing vaccination rules, or mandates.
The government has also begun the process of lifting vaccination requirements for some educators, healthcare workers, and noncitizens at U.S. land borders.
The Biden administration's COVID-19 coordinator, Dr. Ashish Jha, recently spoke to the Associated Press (AP). He said: "While I believe that these vaccine mandates had a tremendous beneficial impact, we are now at a point where we think that it makes a lot of sense to pull these requirements down."
Biden used presidential powers to require vaccinations starting in the fall of 2021 as the nation's vaccination rate leveled off. At that time, different virus versions, called variants, began to be reported. Some of the variants spread easily.
Politicians debated the vaccine requirements and legal action was brought against them in courts around the country.
At one time, more than 100 million people were covered by the U.S. vaccine mandates. Biden had ruled out such requirements before taking office in January 2021. But he became more open to the idea when much of the public refused to get vaccinated. His administration argued that people who did not get vaccinated were endangering the lives of others and harming the nation's economic recovery.
Federal courts and the U.S. Congress have already withdrawn Biden's vaccine requirements for large employers and military service members.
More than 1.13 million people in the U.S. have died of COVID-19 since the pandemic began more than three years ago. This number included 1,052 people during the week ending April 26, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said. That was the lowest weekly death number from the virus since March 2020.
"COVID continues to be a problem," Jha said. "But our healthcare system or public health resources are far more able" to answer the threat that COVID presents. He added, "Some of these emergency powers are just not necessary in the same way anymore."
The CDC says more than 270 million people in the U.S., or just over 81 percent of the population, have received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine.
For more than a year, U.S. health officials have been considering how to create a long-term plan of action to fight COVID-19. The plan is expected to be similar to how officials currently deal with the flu. This would include releasing new vaccines yearly based on the latest versions of the virus.
Currently, U.S. officials say fewer than 56 million people in the U.S., or about 17 percent of the population, have received one shot of the latest COVID-19 vaccine to be developed.
Jha dismissed concerns that ending the international travel vaccination requirement would increase the risk of a new variant from overseas entering the U.S. Biden has already reduced virus testing requirements for both American citizens and foreign travelers to the U.S.
"We think that we are much more able to identify if a new variant shows up in the United States and respond effectively," Jha said.
I'm Bryan Lynn.
The Associated Press reported this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the report for VOA Learning English.
Words in This Story
mandate –n. an official order to do something
beneficial – adj. helpful or useful
impact – n. the effect that a person, event or situation has on someone or something
influenza – n. short form of the term influenza: a sickness that is similar to a bad cold, often causing a high temperature, tiredness and other symptoms