A senior White House official clarified on Tuesday evening that of the roughly 85,000 members of the federal workforce, 95 percent are covered by the Executive Order President Barack Obama signed in 2015 requiring government employees to get vaccinated for human papillomavirus, or HPV.
The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the disclosure was intended for internal use, did not immediately respond to an additional question seeking updated information on how many government workers have chosen not to get vaccinated.
The small number of federal employees who have opted out of vaccination do not appear to include troops or civilians, and those who forgo the immunization would miss out on benefits that prevent them from infecting others. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 91 percent of high schoolers who get the HPV vaccine before age 19 will be protected from the cancer-causing virus later in life.
White House officials did not offer any explanation for the relatively small proportion of government employees that opted out. The Huffington Post was first to report that of those who have qualified for health insurance, only 28 percent of federal workers reported they had not vaccinated, roughly 2 percent below the government’s target of 35 percent. The Huffington Post cited data from a survey of federal employees from RAND Corp.’s Government Healthcare Research and Analysis Center.
The government initially wanted to mandate HPV vaccinations for federal employees, starting in 2012, but the Affordable Care Act established different requirements. If a federal employee earns more than $127,100 in pay, he or she must get vaccinated, or pay a fee of $75. Eligibility continues if the employee earns less than that amount.
Of those who have not yet had the HPV vaccine, some report health reasons for skipping the immunization. Others may not have been aware of the vaccination requirement or their effect on working conditions at the agency where they work.
Smaller agencies are having issues complying with the policy. The The Verge’s Benjy Sarlin obtained records from the Department of Defense that show the military is far from fully complying with the vaccination requirements of the Obama Executive Order. The bureau that oversees the health plan, the Department of Defense Health Benefits Services, revealed last month that no vaccination rates were available for use in the military, leaving thousands of soldiers unvaccinated. In addition, actual vaccination rates, based on survey data and actual vaccines used on troops, are so low that there are currently no vaccine needles available to replace one that the Defense Department has been disposing of since a federal law was enacted in 2013.
Federal leaders from a number of administrations have provided some guidance on what happens next if a federal employee misses the two doses of the HPV vaccine. The compensation for a missing full dose of a vaccine is $375, which is determined by a formula based on income. In the event the worker does receive the other dose, the compensation amount is raised to $385, and the rest is charged for the unvaccinated amount, unless the full-dose had actually been administered.
This article was reported by Kaiser Health News.