FACT CHECK: Image Claims White House, CDC, FDA, Congressional, Pfizer And Moderna Employees As Well As Illegal Immigrants Are Exempt From Biden’s Vaccine Mandate

Elias Atienza | Senior Reporter

A viral Instagram post claims White House staff, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) employees, Moderna and Pfizer employees, congressional staff and illegal immigrants are exempt from President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

Verdict: Misleading

While Biden’s executive order does not apply to illegal immigrants, Congress or its staffers, it does mandate that all federal employees in the executive branch, including those who work in the White House, CDC and FDA, are required to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Pfizer and Moderna, which already have vaccine requirements for their U.S. employees, will likely be subject to Biden’s mandate that companies with 100 or more employees require COVID-19 vaccination or weekly testing.

Fact Check: 

Biden on Sept. 9 announced a vaccine rule that mandates companies with 100 or more employees to require their staff to either be vaccinated against COVID-19 or tested for it on a weekly basis, according to the Associated Press. The same day, he issued an executive order mandating all federal employees of the executive branch be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Since then, a graphic alleging certain groups of people are exempt from Biden’s vaccine mandates has been circulating on Instagram. The graphic reads, “Exempt from Biden’s V mandate: White House Staff, CDC + FDA employees, Moderna + Pfizer employees, Congressional staff, illegal aliens.” (RELATED: Will The FDA Not Authorize Or Approve Any COVID-19 Vaccine?)

The vaccine-related executive order Biden signed mandates “each agency shall implement, to the extent consistent with applicable law, a program to require COVID-19 vaccination for all of its Federal employees, with exceptions only as required by law.” It defines an agency as an “executive agency as defined in 5 U.S.C. 105 (excluding the Government Accountability Office).”

Biden’s COVID-19 Action Plan, which can be found on the White House website, states the executive order requires “all federal executive branch workers to be vaccinated.” White House staff are employees within the executive branch, meaning they are subject to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate outlined in Biden’s executive order, aside from exceptions required by law. There is no option for weekly testing in the executive order.

CDC and FDA employees are also considered part of the executive branch and, thus, are subject to the executive order, as both agencies fall under the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). An Office of Management and Budget official confirmed in an email to Check Your Fact that the CDC and FDA are subject to the mandate.

Congressional staffers, on the other hand, are not subject to Biden’s Sept. 9 executive order due to the separation of powers among the federal government’s three branches, according to Newsweek. The two bodies of Congress and their staff are part of the legislative branch.

While Biden’s executive order does not apply to Pfizer and Moderna, it’s likely the two pharmaceutical companies will be subject to the president’s mandate for employers with 100 or more employees to require their workers to either get vaccinated or submit to weekly testing. Pfizer had, according to Reuters, about 29,400 U.S.-based employees at the end of 2020, and Moderna had about 1,500 employees at the end of March, according to a press release. The mandate for companies will come in the form of an upcoming emergency temporary standard (ETS) from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), according to the White House’s COVID-19 Action Plan.

It’s also worth noting that both companies had already announced COVID-19 vaccination-related policies for their U.S.-based employees prior to Biden announcing the future ETS from OSHA. Pfizer, for instance, announced Aug. 4 that it would start requiring its U.S. employees and contractors to get vaccinated or undergo weekly testing for the virus, CNBC reported. Pfizer spokesperson Pam Eisele told Check Your Fact via email Wednesday that the company is “requiring all U.S. colleagues and contractors to be fully vaccinated unless approved for a medical or religious accommodation from vaccination.”

On Aug. 20, Moderna said in press release that it would “require COVID-19 vaccination for all workers in the United States, effective October 1, 2021” and that “requests for medical or religious exemptions will be considered on an individual basis.” (RELATED: Image Claims Christine Grady Is The Acting Head Of The FDA)

Biden’s executive order mandating COVID-19 vaccines does not mention immigrants living in or entering the country illegally, nor did his announcement regarding the OSHA ETS.

During a Sept. 10 press briefing, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said, “That’s correct,” in response to Fox News’ Peter Doocy saying it’s “not a requirement for migrants at the southern border” to be vaccinated, according to a transcript. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said in a 2021 document that it “cannot force individuals in detention to be vaccinated” but “all detention facilities are responsible for ensuring their ICE detainees are offered the COVID vaccine in accordance with state priorities and guidance.”

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that, starting in October, the U.S. will require new immigrants to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as part of its immigration medical examinations, which those seeking lawful permanent residence must undergo, The New York Times reported.

Elias Atienza

Senior Reporter
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