Many TSA airport screeners remain unvaccinated despite looming deadline for vaccination
By Arsenio Toledo // Nov 19, 2021

As many as 40 percent of the Transport Security Administration's airport screeners continue to defy the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine mandate as the deadline for federal employees to get fully vaccinated draws near.


The TSA's deadline for its workers to be fully vaccinated is on Nov. 22, right before the Thanksgiving weekend.

Hydrick Thomas, president of the division of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) that represents airport security officers, said many TSA workers are actively resisting the vaccine mandate. (Related: Pilots union warns COVID-19 vaccine mandate would cause extreme chaos.)

According to Thomas' estimate, those who continue to refuse the vaccine represent about four in 10 workers.

The TSA's leadership is in denial about the potentially massive number of its employees that remain unvaccinated. Multiple spokespersons for the TSA have claimed that the agency has a "very high" vaccination rate. The agency has so far refused to publish any of the data proving this publicly.

TSA spokesman Carter Langston declined to confirm Thomas' estimates regarding the agency's vaccination rate. He instead claimed that the TSA has made progress persuading – or possibly coercing – hesitant employees to get the dangerous vaccine.

"We have made significant strides since that point," said Langston. "I can't comment on anecdotes, but the compliance rate is very high and we don't have the full data yet."

Langston added that the TSA views the approaching vaccine mandate deadline as "not so much a cliff, but a step to further counsel any unvaccinated employees."

Similarly, TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein insisted that the agency's vaccination rate is "very high." But, like Langston, she refused to provide information that would prove this, claiming instead that "we don't have the full data yet."

TSA's vaccine mandate will lead to staffing shortages ahead of the holidays

TSA officials are also in denial about the possibility of the vaccine mandate leading to staffing shortages and causing disruptions and delays during the holidays.

"TSA does not anticipate that the federal employee vaccine mandate will in any way impact the agency's ability to staff for Thanksgiving travel," Farbstein said. "We continue to work diligently to implement the vaccine requirement, including by promoting vaccination and ensuring every TSA employee is uploading their attestation information."

"It's too early to get into any kind of projections on a holiday that's a month out," Langston said. "We're ready for this holiday travel season. We're staffed and prepared."

TSA Administrator David Pekokse also doesn't think that "implementation of the mandate will have any effect on staffing whatsoever."

Data clearly shows that millions of Americans are expected to take flights on Thanksgiving. Possibly even more people have plans to board planes on or before Christmas.

"The return to travel and the rebound that we are going to see this Thanksgiving is remarkable," said Doug Shupe, a spokesperson for AAA.

The AAA has started warning that airports all over the country may start experiencing delays ahead of the Thanksgiving.

Members of Congress are also starting to worry that the TSA's denial about the problem caused by its own vaccine mandate shows a lack of preparation regarding what it will do once 40 percent of its workforce gets fired.

"What is TSA's plan here? Are they going to discipline or even fire employees who are not fully vaccinated?" asked Republican Rep. Carlos Gimenez of Florida. "I'm concerned that TSA is not adequately staffed to handle the rise in travelers that we will see in airports across the country over the next few weeks."

Everett Kelley, president of the AFGE, testified before Congress recently and admitted that travel disruptions are likely if the vaccine mandate proceeds as planned.

"Challenges are going to be there," said Kelley. "We have not done an exceptional job in making sure that the workforce will replenish. We still have people that are in training that should be on the floor performing their jobs right now."

Kelley and many other union leaders are asking the White House to delay the federal vaccine mandate until after the holidays.

Learn more about how the vaccine mandates are affecting staffing levels in many industries by reading the latest articles at

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