Jul 26, 2021 - Politics & Policy

VA first federal agency to require COVID vaccines for employees

A medical doctor (C) gives the thumbs-up sign to a COVID-19 patient who is no longer using a respirator.
A medical doctor gives the thumbs-up sign to a COVID-19 patient who is no longer using a respirator at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in New York City. Photo: Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images

The Department of Veterans Affairs said Monday it would require its frontline health care workers to get vaccinated against the coronavirus within the next two months, the New York Times reports.

Why it matters: The VA is the first federal agency to mandate that employees receive the vaccine. The decision comes as cases of the Delta variant in the U.S. have increased dramatically.

  • Beginning on Wednesday, workers the agency defines as the "most patient-facing," such as doctors, nurses and dentists, will have eight weeks to get fully vaccinated at risk of penalty or removal.
  • The White House has been informed of the VA's vaccine mandate, per the Times.
  • Nearly 70% of workers in the department's health care centers are fully vaccinated so far.

What they're saying: "I am doing this because it’s the best way to keep our veterans safe, full stop," Denis McDonough, the secretary of veterans affairs, told the Times.

  • “I don’t know what to expect here,” he added. “What I know is, basically, this is the most important step for us to take in terms of enhancing veteran patient safety.”
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