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Biden administration sets Jan. 4 COVID vaccine deadline for workers

The deadline will apply to large employers, federal contractors and health care workers.

vaccine syringes

The new rules will cover 84 million employees across the US,  according to the White House.

Sarah Tew/CNET
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The Biden administration on Thursday said employees at large companies will have until Jan. 4, 2022 to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, as the government puts into place sweeping vaccination policies that will impact millions of workers in the US. 

The mandate applies to private sector companies with 100 or more employees, as well as federal contractors and health care workers. If people aren't vaccinated by the January deadline, employers must ensure that unvaccinated employees produce a weekly verified negative COVID-19 test. Under this mandate, employers must ensure all unvaccinated employees are masked and pay employees for time off to get vaccinated. If an employee tests positive for COVID-19, the employer must remove that individual from the workplace, according to the White House. 

The Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration is the administrative agency formally enacting these rules, and while they had previously announced the vaccination mandate, the details hadn't been out until today. The new rules will cover 84 million employees across the US, according to the White House.

People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after getting the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or after receiving the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective in preventing hospitalization and death. When cases surged in the US over the summer amid the delta variant, unvaccinated people accounted for nearly all the hospitalizations and deaths.

Mirroring OSHA's requirements, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services at the Department of Health and Human Services is setting the same deadline for health care workers at Medicare and Medicaid participating facilities. This rule applies to more than 17 million workers in the health care industry, including those working in hospitals and long-term care facilities. 

Likewise, employees of federal contractors will also need to have their final vaccination dose by Jan. 4.

The new vaccination deadline may have important repercussions for people seeking unemployment benefits, as employees fired for refusing to get vaccinated may not be eligible to collect benefits.

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The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.