Dr. Rhonda Achonolu comforts her son Kenechi, 9, as he is inoculated Wednesday with first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children five to 12 years, at The Children's Hospital at Montefiore, in the Bronx borough of New York.

Dr. Rhonda Achonolu comforts her son Kenechi, 9, as he is inoculated Wednesday with first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children five to 12 years, at The Children's Hospital at Montefiore, in the Bronx borough of New York. Mary Altaffer / AP

OPM: Agencies Must Provide Time Off for Feds to Get Their Kids Vaccinated Against COVID-19

The federal government’s HR agency reminded officials that they must provide employees administrative leave to accompany children getting the COVID-19 vaccine, following approval of the vaccine for 5- through 11-year-olds.

The Office of Personnel Management on Wednesday reminded agencies that they must grant federal employees administrative leave to accompany their children to get the COVID-19 vaccine, following the news that more children are now able to get vaccinated.

Last week, the Food and Drug Administration authorized the emergency use of the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5 through 11, noting that it has been found to be 90.7% effective in preventing COVID-19 infections among that age group and the absence of serious side effects in children who received the vaccine.

In a memo to agency heads, OPM Director Kiran Ahuja reiterated guidance her agency originally issued in August stating that agencies “must” grant up to four hours of administrative leave to federal employees so that they can accompany their family members to receive the vaccine.

“Earlier this year, based on President Biden’s direction that the federal government should work aggressively to maximize the number of people receiving the COVID-19 vaccination, the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force issued guidance directing federal agencies to grant administrative leave so that federal employees may accompany their children who are getting a COVID-19 vaccine shot,” Ahuja wrote. “This guidance now applies to employees with children ages 5 through 11, since those children are vaccine eligible. OPM encourages agencies to make sure employees are aware of this policy through outreach to their workforce.”

The four hours of administrative leave applies to each dose, meaning for a child receiving the Pfizer vaccine, a federal employee can receive a total of eight hours of leave to accompany their child to get vaccinated, with the second dose occurring three weeks after the first shot.

The guidance states that employees should obtain approval from their supervisor in advance before taking administrative leave to take their child to get vaccinated. But employees may not receive leave or overtime for time spent “outside their tour of duty” to help a family member get vaccinated.

According to OPM regulations, the term “child” in this instance refers to a federal employee’s biological, adopted, step or foster children and legal wards, as well as the child of an employee’s spouse or domestic partner. It also applies to children for whom the federal employee is considered a legal guardian.

Ahuja said that this policy will apply if children are eventually approved to receive booster shots, although that is not currently the case.

“We note that administrative leave is granted not only in connection with accompanying family members to obtain a primary vaccine shot, but also to obtain a booster shot for those who are eligible to receive one for an additional dose for immunocompromised individuals,” she wrote. “However, at this time, COVID-19 vaccine booster shots are not approved for persons under age 18.”

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