By Ann Saphir
(Reuters) -The U.S. Federal Reserve in Washington and the regional Fed banks will now require all of their nearly 23,000 employees be vaccinated against COVID-19.
The Philadelphia Fed informed its staff of the new mandate in a memo on Wednesday, making it the last of the 12 regional Fed banks to make vaccination a requirement of employment.
The Fed Board in Washington will also require its employees to be fully vaccinated by Nov. 30, a spokesperson for the U.S. central bank told Reuters on Wednesday.
The regional Fed banks of New York, Boston, St. Louis, San Francisco, Chicago, Richmond, Cleveland, Dallas, Atlanta and Kansas City all separately told their employees last month they would be subject to a vaccine mandate. The Minneapolis Fed was the first to make such a requirement, in July.
Compliance deadlines at the banks are set for as soon as Oct. 1 and as late as, in the Philadelphia Fed’s case, Nov. 30.
All told, the 12 banks employ close to 20,000 people. The Fed Board employs about 2,900.
The requirement is necessary to protect workforce health and “ensure we’re able to serve the needs of our constituents and do our part to combat the spread of COVID-19 and the formation of new variants within the communities we serve,” a Dallas Fed spokesman told Reuters.
President Joe Biden announced https://www.reuters.com/world/us/biden-deliver-six-step-plan-covid-19-pandemic-2021-09-09 last week he would require all U.S. businesses with 100 or more employees to ensure their staff are vaccinated or produce a negative COVID-19 test each week. Goldman Sachs economists estimate the new rule would likely affect about 25 million unvaccinated workers and deliver a modest bump to economic growth.
The Philadelphia Fed said Biden’s mandate was one factor in its decision.
Biden on Wednesday met with executives from Walt Disney Co, Microsoft Corp and other business leaders as part of the push to protect Americans from the spread of the coronavirus, which has filled hospital beds in some parts of the country and is slowing the growth of jobs nationally.
Most federal employees will also be subject to a new vaccine mandate by Nov. 22, the Biden administration said this week.
Some Republican governors – including those in the Atlanta, Kansas City and Dallas Fed districts – oppose vaccine requirements and have vowed to fight them, citing freedom of choice or other concerns.
Opinion polls show a majority of Americans support some form of mandate. As of Sept. 1 about one in five U.S. companies had a vaccine mandate, a Reuters poll found.
U.S. central bankers argue that vaccination is the key to economic recovery, linking labor market recovery in particular to COVID-19 vaccine uptake. About 63% of the eligible U.S. population is fully vaccinated. Even so, the decision was fraught for some Fed officials.
“This wasn’t an easy decision for us, but vaccines offer strong protection against serious illness, hospitalization, and death, and we see them as the best way for us to address the pandemic’s challenges with everyone’s safety and well-being in mind,” said André Anderson, first vice president of the Atlanta Fed, which told employees on Aug. 26 they would have until Nov. 15 to get their shots.
Exceptions will be made for health and religious reasons.
A New York Fed spokesperson pointed out the bank’s efforts to help overcome vaccine hesitancy, including giving vaccinations onsite. “Requiring a vaccine for all current and future New York Fed employees is essential as we contemplate a return to the office,” the spokesperson said.
(Reporting by Ann Saphir; Editing by Andrea Ricci and Jonathan Oatis)