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TSA doesn't anticipate a staffing shortage over federal vaccine mandate

TSA anticipates having enough staff here in the Tampa Bay area to screen more than 400,000 passengers come Thanksgiving.

TAMPA, Fla. — A battle between Florida and President Biden is brewing after Gov. DeSantis sued the administration over its federal vaccine mandate.

"We've gone from 15 days to slow the spread to 3 jabs to keep your job somehow. Are you kidding me," Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday in a press conference in Lakeland.

While DeSantis argues the mandate affects job growth, White House officials say the mandate doesn't restrict employment.

"The purpose, I think, most importantly, is to get people vaccinated and protected, not to punish them," Jeff Zients, head of President Joe Biden's COVID-19 team said.

Zients says doctors have seen strong compliance at universities, healthcare systems and airlines, but the latest area of concern is the TSA.

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The agents are a part of the group of federal workers that need to be fully vaccinated by Nov. 22.

"We are seeing more and more officers head off and get their vaccines," TSA Spokesperson Sari Koshetz said.

Koshetz doesn't expect a staffing shortage due to the mandate, saying many officers across the country have been vaccinated but haven't entered it into a reporting system.

TSA anticipates having enough staff here in the Tampa Bay area to screen more than 400,000 passengers come Thanksgiving.

While national data shows just over 60 percent of TSA agents are fully vaccinated - Koshetz says that number is likely higher.

"There are far more officers that are vaccinated than the number has shown in the media," Koshetz said. 

"We will be considering any kind of acceptable exemptions that are presented to us and we will be working with employees who fail to get their vaccinations in time to hopefully see that that does happen as soon as possible."