Aug 12, 2021 - Politics & Policy

HHS to require COVID-19 vaccine for 25,000 of its health care workers

 Xavier Becerra, secretary of Health and Human Services, arrives to testify during a Senate Finance Committee

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

The Department of Health and Human Services on Thursday announced that it will require more than 25,000 members of its health care workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Why it matters: It's the latest federal agency to implement a vaccine mandate, joining the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Pentagon.

Driving the news: "Our number one goal is the health and safety of the American public, including our federal workforce, and vaccines are the best tool we have to protect people from COVID-19, prevent the spread of the Delta variant, and save lives," HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement.

  • Health care and research staff who work at the Indian Health Service (IHS) or National Institutes of Health (NIH) and potentially interact with patients will be required to receive the vaccine.
  • Members of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps will also be required to receive the COVID vaccine.

The big picture: The IHS, NIH and the Commissioned Corps already require health care workers to receive the seasonal flu vaccine and other vaccinations, with a process for medical and religious exemptions. The same processes will be applied for the COVID-19 vaccine requirement.

  • "As President Biden has said, we are looking at every way we can to increase vaccinations to keep more people safe, and requiring our HHS health care workforce to get vaccinated will protect our federal workers, as well as the patients and people they serve," Becerra said.

Go deeper: Pentagon will require all troops to get COVID vaccine by Sept. 15

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