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Vaccination

To ensure compliance with an applicable preliminary nationwide injunction, which may be supplemented, modified, or vacated, depending on the course of ongoing litigation, the Federal Government will take no action to implement or enforce the COVID-19 vaccination requirement pursuant to Executive Order 14043 on Requiring Coronavirus Disease 2019 Vaccination for Federal Employees. Safer Federal Workforce Task Force guidance on other Federal agency safety protocols remains in effect. For answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) on compliance with the applicable preliminary nationwide injunction, see this guidance (Updated August 17, 2022; Originally Issued January 24, 2022; PDF, Download Adobe Reader).

NOTE: FAQs related to the vaccination requirement pursuant to Executive Order 14043 are not being updated while an applicable preliminary nationwide injunction is in place. FAQs with out-of-date information have been removed at this time.

Q: By what date do Federal employees need to be fully vaccinated?

A: Federal employees need to be fully vaccinated by November 22, 2021.

Employees will be considered fully vaccinated for COVID-19 2 weeks after they have received the requisite number of doses of a COVID-19 vaccine approved or authorized for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or that has been listed for emergency use by the World Health Organization. For Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, or AstraZeneca/Oxford, that is 2 weeks after an employee has received the second dose in a 2-dose series. For Johnson and Johnson (J&J)/Janssen, that is 2 weeks after an employee has received a single-dose.

More information is available at Interim Clinical Considerations for Use of COVID-19 Vaccines | CDC.

Q: By what date do individuals who start their government service after November 22, 2021 need to be fully vaccinated?

A: Agencies should require that individuals who start their government service after November 22, 2021, be fully vaccinated prior to their start date, except in limited circumstances where an accommodation is legally required. Agencies should require documentation to prove vaccination prior to the enter on-duty date. However, should an agency have an urgent, mission-critical hiring need to onboard new staff prior to those new staff becoming fully vaccinated, the agency head may delay the vaccination requirement—in the case of such limited delays, agencies should require new hires to be fully vaccinated within 60 days of their start date and to follow safety protocols for not fully vaccinated individuals until they are fully vaccinated.

OPM has issued further guidance to agencies, including suggested language for job opportunity announcements and tentative and final offer letters.

Q: How does the requirement for federal employees to be fully vaccinated apply to individuals who start their employment after the issuance of EO 14043 but prior to November 22, 2021?

A: Agencies should require that individuals who start their government service prior to November 22, 2021 be fully vaccinated by November 22, 2021, except in limited circumstances where an accommodation is legally required. Should an agency have an urgent, mission-critical hiring need to onboard new staff who cannot be fully vaccinated by November 22, 2021, the agency head may delay the vaccination requirement—in the case of such limited delays, agencies should require new hires to be fully vaccinated within 60 days of their start date and to follow safety protocols for not fully vaccinated individuals until they are fully vaccinated.

As soon as possible, agencies should ensure that individuals who will or may start their government service prior to November 22, 2021, are aware of the requirement to be fully vaccinated by that date and how to seek an exception required by law to the vaccination requirement. OPM has issued further guidance to agencies, including suggested language for job opportunity announcements and tentative and final offer letters.

Q: To what types of Federal employees does the vaccination requirement apply?

A: The vaccination requirement in Executive Order 14043 (Requiring Coronavirus Disease 2019 Vaccination for Federal Employees) covers employees as defined in 5 U.S.C. 2105 (including an employee paid from nonappropriated funds as referenced in 5 U.S.C. 2105(c)). Agencies are strongly encouraged to require vaccinations for any employees or other personnel working under an agreement with an agency not covered by the Executive Order, consistent with applicable law and in consultation with the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force. Implementation of such additional requirements should generally follow the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force’s guidance for implementing the vaccination requirement in Executive Order 14043.

Q: Does the requirement to be vaccinated apply to Federal employees who are not reporting to the worksite (e.g., are on maximum telework or working remotely)?

A: Yes. To protect the health and safety of the Federal workforce and to promote the efficiency of the civil service, all Federal employees covered by Executive Order 14043 and without a legally required exception need to be fully vaccinated by November 22, 2021, regardless of where they are working. Employees who are on maximum telework or working remotely are not excused from this requirement, including because employees working offsite may interact with the public as part of their duties and agencies may need to recall employees who are on maximum telework or working remotely.

Q: Do agencies need to provide onsite vaccinations to their employees?

A: No. Agencies should take steps to make their employees aware of convenient opportunities to be vaccinated. Given the widespread availability of vaccinations, it is not required that agencies provide vaccinations at their facilities or worksites, although agencies may choose to do so.

Q: Should agencies require or request employees and potential employees to provide information about their vaccination status?

To be consistent with guidance from the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force, agencies should take no action to require or request employees and potential employees to provide information about their COVID-19 vaccination status solely for purposes of implementing the vaccination requirement pursuant to E.O. 14043.

Consistent with CDC’s guidance, for most Federal workplaces, COVID-19 workplace safety protocols currently do not vary based on vaccination status or otherwise depend on vaccination information, regardless of the COVID-19 Community Level for the county where the Federal workplace is located. Where this is the case, agencies should pause any efforts to require, request, or collect vaccination status information for the purposes of implementing agency COVID-19 workplace safety protocols.

Agencies with employee COVID-19 vaccination requirements pursuant to authorities other than E.O. 14043 are unaffected by the injunction and may continue to require that employees provide information about their vaccination status, including documentation of proof of vaccination from employees and potential employees subject to those requirements, as can agencies with other setting-specific dependencies on collecting vaccination information from employees in those settings. Such agencies should consult with the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force, the agency’s General Counsel, and the agency’s Senior Agency Official for Privacy on such requirements, including related to information collection.

When agencies pause requiring, requesting, and collecting vaccination status information, such agencies must continue to preserve their vaccination information collection systems and the information collected to date from employees in accordance with the Federal Records Act and other records requirements. Furthermore, it is important to preserve this information as COVID-19 workplace safety protocols may change in the future, or collection of this information from Federal employees may otherwise need to resume.

Q: If agencies require that employees provide information about their vaccination status because of an agency-specific vaccination requirement or an approved setting-specific dependency on collecting vaccination information, may agencies require documentation from employees to prove vaccination status?

A: Yes. If agencies require that employees provide information about their vaccination status because of an agency-specific vaccination requirement or approved setting-specific dependency on collecting vaccination information, agencies may require documentation from employees to prove vaccination, subject to those authorities or requirements, even if an employee has previously attested to their vaccination status. In requesting such information, agencies must comply with any applicable Federal laws, including requirements under the Privacy Act and Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Q: How should agencies maintain any documentation provided by employees regarding vaccination?

A: Agencies must continue to preserve their vaccination information collection systems and information collected to date from employees in accordance with the Federal Records Act and other records requirements. Furthermore, it is important to preserve this information as COVID-19 workplace safety protocols may change in the future, or collection of this information from Federal employees may otherwise need to resume.

If an agency requires that employees provide information about their vaccination status because of an agency-specific vaccination requirement or approved setting-specific dependency on collecting vaccination information, the agency may develop their own processes, systems, tools, and applications, related to those requirements or dependencies, to both collect and maintain the required information, in compliance with all applicable laws and in accordance with their agency record management policies.

The collection and use of this information for many agencies is subject to the OPM/GOVT-10 Employee Medical File system of records notice (SORN) and OPM regulations (5 C.F.R. part 293, subpart E). Under those rules, each agency should have written instructions for its Employee Medical Folder (EMF) system with appropriate safeguards. Employees should be provided with a Privacy Act statement at the point of collection of this information. Agencies that are not subject to OPM’s regulations (or who employ categories of employees not covered by OPM/GOVT-10) should give their employees an alternative Privacy Act or comparable statement, as applicable. As a general rule, this information should not be maintained in the Official Personnel Folder.

Agencies are encouraged to take steps to promote employee privacy and agency IT security, while also providing the relevant information to those in the agency who need to know in order to implement the safety protocols. Agencies should consult with their Agency Records Officer, Chief Information Officer, Senior Agency Official for Privacy, and agency’s legal counsel to determine the best means to maintain this information to meet the agency’s needs.

Q: Which individuals within an agency should have access to information on employees’ vaccination status?

A: The Privacy Act permits disclosure within the agency to employees “who have a need for the record in the performance of their duties.” 5 U.S.C. 552a(b)(1). Agencies should only disseminate information to the appropriate agency officials who have a need to know to ensure effective implementation of the safety protocols, which, in many cases, will include the supervisor level. Agencies must comply with the requirements of the Privacy Act at all times. Agencies should consult with their Senior Agency Official for Privacy on any questions related to Privacy Act requirements.

Q: Is onsite verification of vaccination status for Federal employees required as a condition of entry to GSA-controlled facilities?

A: No, onsite verification of a Federal employee’s COVID-19 vaccination status is not required as a condition to enter GSA-controlled facilities. Security officers at GSA-controlled facilities will admit any Federal employee with a valid PIV card to the facility without requiring onsite proof of vaccination.

Enforcement of applicable workplace safety protocols, including any required testing for Federal employees with approved or pending exceptions, are the responsibility of occupant agencies.

NOTE: FAQs related to the vaccination requirement pursuant to Executive Order 14043 are not being updated while an applicable preliminary nationwide injunction is in place. FAQs with out-of-date information have been removed at this time.

Q: Are there exceptions to the requirement for all employees to be fully vaccinated?

A: Federal employees must be fully vaccinated other than in limited circumstances where the law requires an exception. In particular, an agency may be required to provide a reasonable accommodation to employees who communicate to the agency that they are not vaccinated against COVID-19 because of a disability or because of a sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance. Determining whether an exception is legally required will include consideration of factors such as the basis for the claim; the nature of the employee’s job responsibilities; and the reasonably foreseeable effects on the agency’s operations, including protecting other agency employees and the public from COVID-19. Because such assessments will be fact- and context-dependent, agencies are encouraged to consult their offices of general counsel with questions related to assessing and implementing any such requested accommodations.

Q: Should agencies establish a date by which employees should notify agencies that they are seeking a legally required exception to the requirement to not be fully vaccinated?

A: Yes. In order to ensure that agencies can fully understand the effect of accommodation requests on their operations and to seek to ensure timely review of requests for an accommodation, agencies should establish a date by which employees should as a general matter notify agencies that they are seeking a legally required exception to the requirement to be fully vaccinated. Employees can submit requests for an exception after the date established by the agency.

Q: Should agencies provide employees who are seeking a legally required exception to the vaccination requirement with a form?

A: Yes. Agencies can refer to the following templates to develop a form for employees who are seeking an exception based on a medical condition (template issued October 4, 2021) or based on religion (template updated October 29, 2021). The information on the forms may be used by the agency to help determine whether the employee is entitled to an accommodation. The agency may also ask for other information as needed to determine if the individual is legally entitled to an accommodation. Agencies should consult with their senior agency official for privacy and their office of general counsel to address all legal considerations and privacy requirements in developing their forms, including but not limited to an appropriate Privacy Act Statement. Agencies should comply with any applicable recordkeeping and other requirements.

Q: If an employee requests an accommodation, and that accommodation is denied, how long should the employee be afforded to be fully vaccinated?

A: Agencies should require that an employee whose request for an accommodation is denied receive their first (or, if a one-dose series, only) dose within two weeks of the final determination to deny the accommodation. If receiving a two-dose series, the employee must receive the second dose within 6 weeks of receiving the first dose.

If the employee received a first dose of a two-dose series prior to seeking an accommodation, agencies should require that the employee receive their second dose within two weeks of the final determination to deny the accommodation or within a week of the earliest day by which they can receive their second dose, whichever is later.

Q: Is vaccination for COVID-19 recommended for people who are trying to get pregnant or might become pregnant in the future?

A: Yes. The CDC has stated that COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for people who are trying to get pregnant now or might become pregnant in the future, as well as their partners.

Q: Does the CDC recommend that an employee delay vaccination due to pregnancy?

A: The CDC recommends COVID-19 vaccination for people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, trying to become pregnant now, or trying to become pregnant in the future. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine recommend that all pregnant individuals be vaccinated against COVID-19. However, an agency may allow such an employee to delay vaccination based on the employee’s particular medical circumstances, consistent with the agency’s process for reviewing delay requests.

Q: Is an employee who has had a prior COVID-19 infection required to be fully vaccinated?

A: Yes, an employee who has had a prior COVID-19 infection is required to be fully vaccinated. The CDC recommends that vaccination of people with known current SARS-CoV-2 infection should be delayed until the person has recovered from the acute illness (if the person had symptoms) and has satisfied the criteria to discontinue isolation.

Q: Can an employee delay a COVID-19 vaccine because they have recently received another vaccine, such as the seasonal influenza vaccine?

A: COVID-19 vaccines may be administered without regard to timing of other vaccines. This includes simultaneous administration of COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines on the same day.

Q: What steps may an agency take if a Federal employee refuses to be vaccinated or provide proof of vaccination?

A: Employees covered by Executive Order 14043 who fail to comply with a requirement to be fully vaccinated or provide proof of vaccination and have neither received an exception or extension nor have an exception or extension request under consideration, are in violation of a lawful order. Employees who violate lawful orders are subject to discipline, up to and including termination or removal.

Consistent with the Administration’s policy, agencies should initiate an enforcement process to work with employees to achieve their compliance. Accordingly, agencies should initiate the enforcement process with an appropriate period of education and counseling, including providing employees with information regarding the benefits of vaccination and ways to obtain the vaccine. If the employee does not demonstrate progress toward becoming fully vaccinated through completion of a required vaccination dose or provision of required documentation by the end of the counseling and education period, agencies may issue a letter of reprimand, followed by a short suspension (generally, 14 days or less). Continued noncompliance during the suspension can be followed by proposing removal.

Operational needs of agencies and the circumstances affecting a particular employee may warrant departure from these guidelines if necessary, including whether to expedite or extend the enforcement process. For example, agencies may consider the length of the education and counseling period or following an initial brief suspension (14 days or less) with a longer second suspension (15 days or more), rather than moving from a first suspension to proposal of removal. That said, consistency across Government in enforcement of this Government-wide vaccine policy is desired, and the Executive Order does not permit exceptions from the vaccination requirement except as required by law.

Agencies may initiate the enforcement process for employees who fail to submit documentation to show that they have completed receiving required vaccination dose(s), as long as those employees have not received an exception or extension, or the agency is not considering an exception or extension request from the employee.

If an employee responds at any phase of the enforcement process by submitting proof of progress toward full vaccination (i.e., completion of a required vaccination dose), the agency should hold the discipline in abeyance to afford the employee a reasonable period of time to become fully vaccinated.

In pursuing any adverse action, the agency must provide the required procedural rights to an employee and follow normal processes, including any agency policies or collective bargaining agreement requirements concerning disciplinary matters. Employees should not be placed on administrative leave while agencies are pursuing an adverse action for refusal to be vaccinated, but those employees will be required to follow safety protocols for employees who are not fully vaccinated when reporting to agency worksites.

If the employee claims a legally required exception, or a medical circumstance that necessitates delay of vaccination, as the reason for not being vaccinated, an agency should follow its ordinary process to review and consider what, if any, accommodation it must offer. All agency personnel designated to receive and review requests for accommodations should know how to handle requests consistent with applicable Federal law. If the employee’s request for an exception or extension is denied, and the employee does not comply with the vaccination requirement in a timely manner, the agency may pursue disciplinary action, up to and including removal from Federal service.

OPM has issued additional guidance to further assist agencies with enforcing the vaccination requirement for Federal employees.

NOTE: FAQs related to the vaccination requirement pursuant to Executive Order 14042 are not being updated while an applicable preliminary nationwide injunction is in place. FAQs with out-of-date information have been removed at this time.

Q: Can agencies incorporate vaccination requirements into contracts that are not covered by Executive Order 14042 (Ensuring Adequate COVID Safety Protocols for Contractors)?

A: Yes. Agencies are strongly encouraged to incorporate vaccination requirements into contracts that are not covered by Executive Order 14042, consistent with applicable law. This might include, for example, incorporating vaccination requirements into contracts in advance of when they are otherwise required by the Executive Order or incorporating requirements into contracts that are not covered by the Executive Order, such as contracts under the Simplified Acquisition Threshold. Implementation of such additional requirements should generally follow the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force’s guidance for implementing the vaccination requirement in Executive Order 14042.

Q: Should agencies inquire regarding the vaccination status of onsite contractor employees?

A: To be consistent with Safer Federal Workforce Task Force guidance, agencies should pause asking onsite contractor employees to provide information about their COVID-19 vaccination status, regardless of COVID-19 Community Levels, where COVID-19 safety protocols do not vary based on vaccination status. This is true regardless of COVID-19 Community Levels.

If an agency head approves an exception—following consultation with the agency COVID-19 Coordination Team, including the agency Office of General Counsel, and the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force—for asking onsite contractor employees about their vaccination status because of setting-specific dependencies on vaccination information, then the agency would need to use an agency-specific form approved separately by OMB. The previously issued Government-wide Certification of Vaccination form must not be used. If an agency head approves an exception—following consultation with the agency COVID-19 Coordination Team, including the agency Office of General Counsel, and the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force—for collecting vaccination information from onsite contractor employees because of setting-specific dependencies on vaccination information, any information collection regarding the vaccination status of onsite contractor employees must be in accordance with the Privacy Act of 1974 and, if applicable, would require an agency-specific System of Records Notice.

Q: Should agencies discuss vaccination plans with their employee unions?

A: Yes. Because agencies need to act quickly due to the COVID-19 emergency and to protect the health and safety of federal employees, contractor employees, and visitors, agencies should engage with employee unions at their earliest opportunity regarding the requirement for agency employees to be vaccinated. The Government-wide policy covers specific implementation steps that agencies need to take, as well as a deadline for implementation. Additional guidance on the policy will be forthcoming that will address further implementation issues. Accordingly, bargaining over this Government-wide policy will be limited to impact and implementation issues not otherwise addressed in the guidance. Moreover, agencies must implement Government-wide policy by the deadline, so any bargaining that has not been completed by the time implementation must begin will have to be finished post-implementation.

Q: Who is considered fully vaccinated?

A: People are considered fully vaccinated for COVID-19 ≥2 weeks after they have received the second dose in a 2-dose series (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna), or ≥2 weeks after they have received a single-dose vaccine (Johnson and Johnson (J&J)/Janssen). There is currently no post-vaccination time limit on fully vaccinated status.

This guidance applies to COVID-19 vaccines currently either approved or authorized for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson [J&J]/Janssen COVID-19 vaccines). This guidance can also be applied to COVID-19 vaccines that have been listed for emergency use by the World Health Organization (e.g., AstraZeneca/Oxford). More information is available at Interim Clinical Considerations for Use of COVID-19 Vaccines | CDC.

Q: Can an employee who participates in a clinical trial for a COVID-19 vaccine be considered fully vaccinated?

A: Clinical trial participants within or outside the United States who are documented to have received the recommended primary series doses of a WHO-EUL COVID-19 vaccine (i.e., not placebo) that is not FDA-approved or FDA-authorized, or a vaccine that is not listed for emergency use by WHO but for which a U.S. data and safety monitoring board or equivalent has independently confirmed efficacy, can be considered fully vaccinated 2 weeks after they have completed the vaccine series. More information is available here.