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Nearly 40% of TSA workers are unvaccinated ahead of November deadline

Oct. 17, 2021
3 min read
Denver International Airport scenes TSA Security
Nearly 40% of TSA workers are unvaccinated ahead of November deadline
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Editor's Note

This is a continually updated story

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents help travelers in Miami in May (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Roughly 40% of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) workers are unvaccinated ahead of the Nov. 22 deadline for federal government workers to be fully vaccinated.

"We have about 60% of our workforce has been vaccinated, that number needs to go quite a bit higher over the next few weeks," said TSA Administrator David Pekoske in an interview with CNN on Oct. 13.

What does this mean for TSA workers who don’t get vaccinated without necessary exemption?

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“Employees who choose to remain unvaccinated for COVID-19 and have not received or have a pending request for a legally required exemption will be subject to discipline, up to and including removal from federal service,” a TSA spokesperson told The Points Guy in an email.

The spokesperson did not elaborate on other types of "discipline" employees would be subject to, other than removal from service.

Related: 85% of flight attendants say they’ve dealt with unruly passengers this year

“Even after receiving the vaccine, TSA has stressed that it remains essential for employees to follow established protocols in maintaining personal safety, such as mask-wearing, hand washing, social distancing, and limiting exposure to large crowds,” said the TSA spokesperson.

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“We continue to urge employees in regularly scheduled town hall meetings, shift briefs, and broadcast messages to the workforce to obtain their vaccination,” the TSA spokesperson continued.

Related: The US reopens to international travelers on November 8 — here's what you need to know

If the TSA is short-staffed or isn’t able to staff up quickly enough, an agent shortage could lead to longer checkpoint lines for this forthcoming busy holiday season just as they saw an uptick in travelers this past summer.

In response to TSA vaccination numbers, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. warned about a potential "travel mess as Thanksgiving approaches" if TSA fails to increase vaccination among employees before the Nov. 22 deadline, per reporting by NBC 4 New York.

"We can't have people worried about the holiday season travel," Schumer told the outlet. "We have to assure them that it's going to be smooth."

On Oct. 15, the United States announced that it will officially reopen its borders to fully vaccinated travelers on Nov. 8. Expectations remain optimistic for more vaccinated TSA workers before the looming late November deadline.

“We anticipate the vast majority of TSA employees will get vaccinated. Thousands of TSA agents upload their vaccination status every week,” the TSA spokesperson said.

Additional reporting by Caroline Tanner

Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images.

Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.