40% of TSA agents remain unvaccinated as inoculation mandate deadline approaches

‘We are building contingency plans, for if we do have some staffing shortages as a result of this’

Andrew Feinberg
Thursday 14 October 2021 19:59 BST
President Biden orders vaccine mandates

With six weeks to go until President Biden’s Covid-19 vaccine mandate for federal employees takes effect, the agency responsible for screening air travellers says 40 per cent of its workforce has yet to be inoculated.

“We have about 60 per cent of our workforce has been vaccinated, that that number needs to go quite a bit higher over the next few weeks,” Transportation Security Administration Administrator David Pekoske said on Wednesday while speaking to CNN.

Because vaccines are only considered effective two weeks after a person receives their final dose, the deadline for being fully vaccinated with Moderna’s mRNA vaccine — which requires a four-week interval between shots — by Mr Biden’s 22 November deadline has already passed, and a similar deadline for use of Pfizer’s vaccine is fast approaching on 18 October.

However, the TSA boss said he remains “very hopeful” that his employees will meet the final deadline and avoid a shortage of airport screeners.

Not having enough workers available to screen airline passengers could severely hobble US air travel, especially since the 22 November final deadline would put unvaccinated screeners out of work just days before Thanksgiving, usually the busiest travel day of the year in the US.

“We are building contingency plans, for if we do have some staffing shortages as a result of this, but I hope to avoid that,” Pekoske said.

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