VA Mandates Vaccines for Health Care Workers
“It’s the best way to keep veterans safe, especially as the Delta variant spreads across the country,” said VA Secretary Denis McDonough.
The Veterans Affairs Department announced on Monday it will require all frontline healthcare workers to get vaccinated, making it the first federal agency to issue any sort of coronavirus vaccine mandate.
The mandate will apply to Title 38 health care employees who work in Veterans Health Administration facilities, visit the facilities or provide direct care to individuals the VA serves. The order covers about 115,000 employees, according to The New York Times and represents about 27% of the workforce. Government Executive reported last year about the vast health and safety issues VA employees were facing in the beginning of the pandemic.
“We’re mandating vaccines for Title 38 employees because it’s the best way to keep veterans safe, especially as the Delta variant spreads across the country,” said Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough in a statement. “Whenever a veteran or VA employee sets foot in a VA facility, they deserve to know that we have done everything in our power to protect them from COVID-19. With this mandate, we can once again make—and keep—that fundamental promise.”
Employees have eight weeks to get fully vaccinated if they have not already done so.
“All VA employees are eligible to be vaccinated at no personal expense at any of our facilities,” VA noted in a press release. “Employees will also receive four hours of paid administrative leave after demonstrating they have been vaccinated.”
The release does not mention that the three vaccines authorized by the Food and Drug Administration have been released under emergency use authorization.
There have been 272, 308 COVID-19 cases among employees, veterans and others the VA monitors and 12,609 deaths, according to VA’s website. Also, 300,099 employees are fully vaccinated, which represents about 70% of the workforce.
Earlier this month, “McDonough acknowledged that [the vaccination rate] fluctuates from location to location,” Military Times reported.
During the briefing on Monday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said there has not been a determination made about whether Biden will require members of the military or civilian federal employees to get vaccinated.