President Joe Biden on Tuesday revoked requirements that most international visitors to the United States be vaccinated against COVID-19 as well as similar rules for federal employees and contractors.
Biden's orders take effect at 12:01 a.m. ET May 12 with the expiration of the US COVID public health emergency. The Biden administration's rules imposed in September 2021 requiring about 3.5 million federal employees and contractors to be vaccinated or face firing or disciplinary action have not been enforced for over a year after a series of court rulings.
The White House announced the plan last week to end the last of the extraordinary public health restrictions first adopted in 2020 that at one point barred most of the world's population from entering the United States.
White House COVID-19 response coordinator Ashish Jha told reporters on Tuesday that the administration had made a public health determination that the vaccination requirements for foreign visitors, federal employees and contractors "were no longer necessary to protect Americans".
Jha said US worker vaccine requirements led to more than 90 per cent of employees getting vaccinated. "We think those requirements saved thousands of lives but we're at a different place."
The Biden administration last June dropped its requirement that people arriving in the US by air had to test negative for COVID but kept in place Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) vaccination requirements for most foreign travelers after reopening to foreign tourists from China, India, Brazil and much of Europe in late 2021.
The rules barred Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic from taking part in some US tournaments because he is not vaccinated against COVID-19.
The Homeland Security Department will also no longer require non-US travellers entering the United States via land ports of entry and ferries to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and provide proof upon request.
The US Health and Human Services Department is also ending vaccination requirements for Head Start educators and government-certified healthcare facilities.