Around 40 percent of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees remain unvaccinated against COVID-19 as the Biden administration’s deadline approaches, according to an official for the federal agency.
“We have about 60 percent of our workforce has been vaccinated, that that number needs to go quite a bit higher over the next few weeks,” TSA Administrator David Pekoske told CNN. “We are building contingency plans for if we do have some staffing shortages as a result of this, but I hope to avoid that.”
The November 22 deadline for being fully vaccinated is still six weeks away, but the deadlines for receiving the vaccines are rapidly approaching or, in the case of the Moderna vaccine, have already passed, since an individual has to receive the full schedule of doses and wait two weeks before being considered fully vaccinated.
In order to meet that deadline, the last possible date for receiving the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine is October 18, while the latest possible date for the first dose of Moderna was October 11. The Pfizer vaccine requires a three-week waiting period in between first and second doses. Moderna requires a four-week wait.
Pekoske said the TSA has held town hall meetings as part of an effort to increase inoculation among agency employees.
On Friday, the White House announced that the U.S. will allow fully vaccinated international travelers to begin entering the country on November 8th. International travelers will still be required to provide proof of a negative coronavirus test to travel to the U.S.
“This policy is guided by public health, stringent and consistent,” a White House official said.
U.S.-based airlines praised the White House’s announcement to ease inbound travel restrictions.
″We welcome the Biden administration’s science-based approach to begin lifting the restrictions on travel to the U.S. that were put into place at the start of the pandemic,” American Airlines CEO Doug Parker said in a statement.