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CDC chief says there will be no federal mandate on Covid-19 vaccine

Walensky clarifies comment she made in Fox interview, says "I completely understand the pushback" against a government requirement.
Image: Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing on federal government coronavirus disease (COVID-19) response in Washington
Rochelle Walensky, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, attends a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing at the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., on July 20, 2021.Stefani Reynolds / Pool via Reuters
/ Source: Reuters

WASHINGTON — U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said on Friday there will be no nationwide mandate for Americans to get a Covid-19 vaccine, clarifying comments she made earlier during a televised interview.

"To clarify: There will be no nationwide mandate. I was referring to mandates by private institutions and portions of the federal government," Walensky wrote in a Twitter post. "There will be no federal mandate."

Earlier on Friday, when asked by a Fox News Channel interviewer, "Are you for mandating a vaccine on a federal level," Walensky said: "That's something that I think the administration is looking into."

President Joe Biden's administration has been seeking ways to increase vaccination levels in the United States at a time when some Americans have persisted in their refusal to get the shot. Biden on Thursday urged local governments to pay people to get vaccinated and set new rules requiring federal workers to provide proof of vaccination or face regular testing, mask mandates and travel restrictions.

The United States is experiencing rising numbers of Covid-19 cases, especially in areas with lower rates of vaccination. In particular, there have been growing numbers of cases of the Delta variant of the coronavirus, and health authorities this week introduced new measures to encourage vaccination and told fully vaccinated Americans to wear masks in Covid-19 hot spots.

Asked in the Fox News interview whether she understood the resistance a federal mandate would face from many people who think the decision on getting vaccinated should be made by them and their doctors, Walensky said: "I completely understand the pushback."

But Walensky added that "this is not unlike ... other vaccines that are mandated" such as for schoolchildren and for healthcare staff working in hospitals.

"So I understand both perspectives in that story," Walensky said.