President Biden is set to announce that federal employees will be required to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus during an address to the nation on Thursday night.
The move comes as cases of the Delta variant continue surge across the country, prompting municipalities to reimpose mask mandates.
The executive order by which the vaccine mandate will be installed and enforced will also apply to federal contractors. Previously, administration policy allowed employees to submit to frequent testing among other strict protocols if they chose not to be inoculated against the virus.
Biden made addressing the pandemic a focus of his campaign for president, promising to “shut down the virus, not the country” during a debate with President Donald Trump last October. In January, a Pew Research poll found that 78 percent of Americans called handling the outbreak of the virus a “top priority.” That was second only to “strengthening the economy.”
Vaccines developed over the course of the Trump administration and distributed under the Biden administration had seemed to bring the end of the pandemic within sight until the advent and spread of the Delta variant resulted in this present wave.
Breakthrough cases in which vaccinated individuals become infected have been much more common since the Delta variant became the primary strain responsible for American cases, but the inoculations remain incredibly effective at preventing serious symptomatic illness, hospitalization, and death.
Massachusetts, for example, reports that only 162 of its over 4.5 million fully vaccinated residents have died of COVID-19 this year. The Centers for Disease Control has attributed 18,298 deaths in Massachusetts to COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. That means that vaccinated individuals account for .88 percent of coronavirus deaths in the state.