IRS Reports 25 Percent of Workforce Got COVID Vaccine After Biden Mandate Issued

After President Joe Biden announced his sweeping mandate requiring millions of federal workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19, about 25 percent of Internal Revenue Service (IRS) workers got their first vaccine dose, the Associated Press reported.

Now, 98 percent of the agency's workforce is in compliance with the mandate, either by vaccine or exemption.

Though many Americans have strongly decried and opposed the vaccine requirement, the IRS numbers show how effective a federal mandate can be in driving up inoculation rates. Monday was set as the deadline for workers to get their first shot, and 92 percent of the 3.5 million people subject to the mandate reported that they were at least partially vaccinated, according to White House officials.

"We know vaccine requirements work," White House assistant press secretary Kevin Munoz said. "We hope that our implementation sends the clear message to businesses to move forward with similar measures that will protect their workforce, protect their customers, and protect our communities."

Meanwhile, there didn't appear to be any disruptions to law enforcement, intelligence-gathering or travel for the Thanksgiving holiday. Compliance with the federal worker mandate is measured by vaccination or obtaining a medical or religious exemption.

Overall, 96.5 percent of federal workers were reported to comply through one option or the other, though exemptions that are still being evaluated are included in the percentage, AP reported.

Those who didn't get vaccinated or an exemption are considered not in compliance, but the next step for those workers will include counseling to get the vaccine or request an exemption. It is only after the counseling process that termination would be a possibility, according to AP.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Biden Vaccine Mandate
After President Joe Biden announced his sweeping mandate requiring millions of federal workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19, about 25 percent of Internal Revenue Service workers got their first shot. The number is now up to 98 percent. Above, Biden speaks about COVID-19 vaccinations after touring a Clayco Corporation construction site for a Microsoft data center in Elk Grove Village, Illinois, on October 7, 2021. Susan Walsh/AP Photo

The highest number of partial vaccinations by Tuesday was at the Agency for International Development, which had 97.8 percent, followed closely by the Department of Health and Human Services at 96.4 percent and State Department at 96.1 percent, according to data provided by the White House Wednesday.

Law enforcement agencies do lag behind in vaccines, with the Justice Department at 89.8 percent. The Department of Veterans Affairs is at 87.8 percent of partial vaccinations, though the Defense Department was 93.4 percent and the Homeland Security Department was 88.9 percent. The government office with the least number of partially vaccinated employees was the Agriculture Department, at 86.1 percent.

White House officials said the data was just a snapshot and the numbers would continue to rise in the days and weeks ahead.

Since instituting the initial vaccine-or-test mandate this summer and then the more-restrictive requirement without a test-out option this fall, the White House has believed the federal government could serve as a model for the rest of the nation's employers for how vaccinations could help shepherd a quicker return to the normal.

White House officials say the most important lesson for businesses from the federal experience is that once they take the first step toward requirements, their workers will follow.

Agencies with marginally lower vaccination rates tend to have widely dispersed workforces, making education and counseling about the benefits of vaccines—or even just the task of getting workers to self-report that they've already gotten a shot—more difficult.

Several intelligence agencies apparently had at least 20 percent of their workforce unvaccinated as of late October, said Republican Representative Chris Stewart of Utah, a member of the House Intelligence Committee.

Larry Cosme, president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, said about the same time that there are about 31,000 members from 65 federal law enforcement agencies in the association and he estimated 60 percent of them have been vaccinated.

A federal corrections officers union in Florida sued over the mandate this past week, saying it was a violation of civil rights. The case is pending.

Some of the initial fears about the vaccination status of the federal workforce stemmed from employees without access to government computers to make their vaccination certification. Some, like front-line Transportation Security Administration officers, rarely use a government computer. Others are in the field or simply delayed responding to the survey or beginning vaccination.

The federal vaccination rate outpaces the rate of vaccination for all Americans. About 82.2 percent of American adults, or more than 212 million people, have received at least one dose. Of them about 71 percent, or over 183 million, are fully vaccinated.

COVID Vaccine Site
Monday was set as the deadline for federal workers to get their first shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 92 percent of the 3.5 million people subject to the mandate reported that they were at least partially vaccinated, according to White House officials. Above, a sign at a hospital advertises the COVID-19 vaccine on November 19, 2021, in New York City. Spencer Platt/Getty Images