The union that represents nearly 30,000 federal law enforcement officers has come out against President Biden's sweeping COVID-19 vaccine mandate that includes the federal workforce, saying it "villainizes employees" for having concerns and hesitancies.
On Thursday, Biden announced a series of vaccine requirements from the White House that could apply to as many as 100 million Americans as part of an aggressive push to stem the surge of COVID-19. The requirement impacts federal employees as well as large employers, among other sectors.
Larry Cosme, president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA), called the mandate a "misguided" attempt that undermines vaccination efforts.
"The COVID-19 pandemic is a rapidly evolving and emotional trying situation. In the face of so many uncertainties, our federal government should trust its employees to make their own medical decision under consultation with their doctor, not mandate by their employer," Cosme said in a statement. "Vaccination should be promoted through education and encouragement – not coercion."
He added that the mandate inserts the federal government into personal medical decisions.
In his speech, Biden took issue with those hesitant or flat out against getting vaccinated.
"We've been patient but our patience is wearing thin and your refusal has cost all of us," he said. "This is not about freedom or personal choice. It's about protecting yourself and those around you."
He also called on state governors to mandate coronavirus vaccines for teachers and school staff, while seeming to call out Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has threatened to withhold pay for school leaders who defy his ban on mask mandates.
"If these governors won’t help us beat the pandemic, I’ll use my power as president to get them out of the way," Biden said.
He also said he will require 300,000 educators in the federal Head Start program to get vaccinated.
Cosme noted that his group encourages members to get vaccinated in most cases, saying the United States could be close to herd immunity based on voluntary vaccination.
"We are a nation built on freedom," he said. "We are law enforcement officers who defend that freedom. And we deserve the freedom to make our own health decisions."