What Colleges and Universities Need to Know About the Biden Vaccine Mandate for Federal Contractors
October 04, 2021

A new ACE issue brief summarizes the Biden administration’s new guidance on mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for federal contractors, including colleges and universities.

The president signed an executive order Sept. 9 directing federal departments and agencies to include a new clause in certain government contracts compelling employees of covered contractors to get vaccinated, without an option for those who prefer to be regularly tested instead. 

The order is part of a larger COVID-19 Action Plan, which also encourages federal agencies to import this requirement into additional contracts.  In addition, the action plan requires most healthcare facilities that accept Medicare or Medicaid funding to vaccinate their employees, and directs that all businesses with more than 100 employees require their workers to be immunized or face weekly testing.

The Safer Federal Workforce Task Force published federal contractor guidance Sept. 24. The core message for higher education institutions is that colleges and universities with many types of federal contracts or “contract-like instruments” valued above $250,000 will be required to ensure that their employees and subcontractors—including student employees--be vaccinated. In addition, masking and social distancing protocols are specified in the guidance.

The protocols, as drafted, also are likely to apply to many students who are not employees.

The primary objective of the issue brief is to suggest a framework for analysis and assessment of an institution’s particular situation. Given the number of ambiguities in the guidance and continuing uncertainties, the brief is not intended to provide definitive answers, which should take an institution’s unique characteristics and circumstances into consideration.

To supplement to the guidance regarding federal contractors, implementing contract language will be published by Oct. 8, and individual agencies may also publish additional guidance. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will publish an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) sometime in the coming weeks to require all employers under OSHA’s jurisdiction “to ensure their workforce is fully vaccinated or require any workers who remain unvaccinated to produce a negative test result on at least a weekly basis before coming to work.”

After the ETS is published, ACE expects to prepare another issue brief on this aspect of the Biden administration’s plan, including discussing how it may impact public and private colleges and universities.  ​

Assessing the Impact of COVID-19 Federal Contractor Requirements on Colleges and Universities

Downloa​​d Issue Brief