Come May 11 and the Biden administration is headed at a landmark turn. All Covid-19 vaccine requirements cease to exist for federal workers, international travellers, contractors, Head Start employees and health care workers at many hospitals.
The White House announced the shift in policy on Monday. It has been three years since the start of the pandemic that prompted nations across the globe to require vaccination against the fast-moving and rapidly changing virus.
But on May 11, all those requirements end.
“While vaccination remains one of the most important tools in advancing the health and safety of employees and promoting the efficiency of workplaces,” the White House said, “we are now in a different phase of our response when these measures are no longer necessary.”
The short, four-paragraph statement also downs the curtains on one of the most fiercely fought political battle between Republicans and Democrats across the country, with the former questioning the jab and the latter gunning in favour of the same.
According to statistics, Covid-19 deaths in the United States had declined by 95 percent, and hospitalizations were down almost 91 percent. The White House also briefed on the need to acknowledge that “virus levels are at their lowest since the beginning of the pandemic.”
Interestingly, medical experts, many of whom were fierce advocates of government vaccine mandates throughout the pandemic, have nodded in acquiesce with the new mandate.
“The vaccines still help in reducing chances of hospitalization and death, but are no longer effective at preventing transmission of the virus. The decision about whether to be vaccinated will once again be largely between a doctor and patient, not the government,” stated vaccine advocate Dr Paul G. Auwaerter, clinical director, infectious diseases division at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Other Covid vaccine mandates have already been relaxed by colleges, local and state governments, and private companies. But the end of federal vaccine requirements will have an immediate impact on tens of thousands of Americans, as well as foreigners who travel to the United States.
Among them is likely to be Novak Djokovic, the Serbian professional tennis player who is currently ranked No. 1 in the world in men’s singles but who has been banned from coming to play in the United States because in a sharply polarised world over the issue, he “celebrated not being vaccinated.” The US Open is scheduled for New York in September.
The vaccine requirements will be eliminated on the same day that the Biden administration ends the Covid-19 public health emergency, which was declared by the Trump administration on Jan. 31, 2020, shortly after the initial discovery of the respiratory disease in China.
On May 11, a separate set of Covid-19 policies will begin to unwind as well, marking an unofficial end to the most intense phase of the federal government’s pandemic response.
Americans with private health insurance and Medicare plans will no longer be eligible for eight free at-home coronavirus tests each month. Medicare recipients might also face some cost-sharing for virus tests administered at health providers, while those with private plans might face the same for P.C.R. tests. Some people with private plans may also have to pay for costs tied to out-of-network Covid-19 vaccinations.
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