The director of the US Centres for Disease Control said the agency would not be recommending any nationwide vaccination mandates, despite the spike in Delta variant Covid-19 cases around the country.
CDC Director Dr Rochelle Walensky said on Friday that "there will be no nationwide mandate" for the Covid-19 vaccine.
The announcement came days after Dr Walensky announced the CDC had updated its guidelines to recommend that fully vaccinated adults should start wearing masks indoors again if they live in high-transmission areas, which include most of the nation's largest cities.
Dr Walensky also noted that while vaccinated people can transmit the virus, the vast majority of transmission is unvaccinated people passing the virus onto other unvaccinated people.
The doctor felt the need to clarify earlier statements she made on Fox News, where she told Bret Baier that the Biden administration was "looking into" a federal vaccine mandate.
“Overall, I think in general I am all for more vaccination. But, you know — I have nothing further to say on that except that we're looking into those policies. And, quite honestly as people were doing that locally, those are individual local decisions as well,” Dr Walensky said.
On Friday, Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House's principal deputy press secretary, said that a "national vaccine requirement is not under consideration at this time."
Dr Walensky clarified her statements, saying she meant vaccination requirements by private businesses, not by the federal government.
“There will be no nationwide mandate. I was referring to mandates by private institutions and portions of the federal government. There will be no federal mandate,” Dr Walensky tweeted.
The guidance instructing fully vaccinated individuals to start wearing masks indoors again has irked some, including lawmakers, who argue that if transmission is largely from unvaccinated people to other unvaccinated people, they should not be forced to resume using face masks.
Only about 50 per cent of the adult population in the US is vaccinated, and no children under 11 have had the shot.
Democratic Governor of California Gavin Newsom appeared on CNN and said that he preferred a focus on getting the unvaccinated vaccinated. He said that masks were an effective mitigation tool, but that the focus now should solely be on stomping out the virus through vaccination.
Republican Governor of Florida Ron DeSantis also opposed further masking, and signed an executive order prohibiting schools in the state from forcing students to wear masks when schools re-open in the fall.
That order directly defies the guidance issued by the CDC, which recommends that all students, teachers and staff wear masks in the fall.
While a nationwide vaccine mandate does not appear to be in the works, Joe Biden has directed that all federal employees either take the vaccine or submit to weekly coronavirus testing. California, New York City and several companies have issued similar mandates for their employees.