White House: National vaccine mandate ‘not under consideration at this time’
The White House is not presently considering a national requirement for the COVID-19 vaccine, principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Friday.
“A national vaccine requirement is not under consideration at this time. That’s where we are with that,” Jean-Pierre said at a press briefing.
The possibility was raised by Fox News correspondent Peter Doocy after President Biden said a day earlier said it was “still a question” whether the federal government can mandate the vaccine for the entire country.
“I don’t know that yet,” Biden said Thursday, adding that the Justice Department had determined that local communities could legally require the shot.
Public health experts and lawmakers have debated in recent weeks the usefulness of vaccine mandates and whether the country will need to reimpose certain restrictions on businesses as coronavirus cases rise nationwide due to the highly contagious delta variant.
Republicans have warned against any type of national mandate, arguing it would be a gross overreach by the federal government, particularly since the Food and Drug Administration has not given full authorization to the shots, despite their administration to millions of Americans.
Biden announced Thursday that federal employees and civilian contractors will be required to confirm they’ve gotten the vaccine or undergo regular testing and abide by stricter protocols around mask-wearing and social distancing.
The move followed similar measures from New York City, California and private companies such as the NFL that have in recent weeks been more aggressive in requiring employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine or submit to more frequent testing.
But the White House has been adamant that lockdowns like the ones implemented when the virus was at its peak last winter should not be necessary because of the effectiveness of vaccines, and they have pleaded with Americans who are still holding out to get the shot.
“The way we see this is that we have the tools in our tool belt to fight this variant,” Jean-Pierre said Friday. “And we are not going to head towards a lockdown.”