US to End COVID-19 Vaccine Requirement for International Travelers

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A healthcare worker fills a syringe with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at Jackson Memorial Hospital on Oct. 5, 2021, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

The Biden administration will end its COVID-19 vaccine requirements for international travelers and various workplaces next week, the White House announced Monday, a move that will coincide with the end of the public health emergency related to the coronavirus.

The decision to wind down the requirements comes roughly two years after the administration first announced the mandates for international travelers and federal employees and contractors.

The move may ultimately have a minimal impact once it is enacted. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week announced international travelers who had received a single dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine would fulfill the testing requirement.

Meanwhile, federal courts had blocked the vaccine mandate for federal workers since January 2022.

An appeals court in December ruled the White House could not require federal contractors to mandate that their workers are vaccinated against COVID-19.

The administration on Monday also announced that Head Start educators and workers at CMS-certified health care facilities would no longer have a vaccination requirement. The departments of Health and Human Services and Homeland Security are expected to roll out additional details about the process to end those requirements in the coming days.

The Biden administration’s efforts to require vaccinations for certain groups triggered major resistance among conservatives, who viewed it as infringing on personal health decisions, even as White House officials defended the mandates as an effective way to curb the pandemic when it was still raging early in Joe Biden’s presidency.

Biden has said the pandemic is over in the sense many Americans no longer let the virus dictate their day-to-day lives, and the administration is winding down the public health emergency in the coming days.

The White House on Monday noted that COVID-19 deaths have declined by 95 percent since January 2021, when Biden took office, and hospitalizations have declined by 91 percent. Nearly 270 million Americans have received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine.

“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.

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