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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.”

Go deeper

Updated Nov 2, 2021 - Health

CDC approves Pfizer vaccine for kids 5 to 11

A healthcare worker administers a dose of a Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine to a child at a pediatrician's office in Bingham Farms, Michigan. Photo: Emily Elconin/Bloomberg via Getty Images

CDC director Rochelle Walensky endorsed a two-dose series of Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine for kids 5-11, marking the final step in the approval process that makes coronavirus vaccines available to younger children as soon as Friday.

Why it matters: Modeling from the panel suggests that vaccinating 5-11-year-olds will reduce transmission of COVID in the U.S. by 8% between November and March 2022.

Greene's fines unmasked

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene on Monday. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) has already been fined a quarter of her congressional salary for not wearing a mask on the House floor, yet she says that pales in comparison to the price paid by other public employees.

Why it matters: Republicans have defied a slate of measures put in place by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to mitigate the spread of coronavirus and bolster security following the Jan. 6 attack. And Greene has the personal wealth to withstand fines aimed at enforcing them.

Biden announces new strategy to reduce military and veteran suicides

President Biden speaks at forum on gun safety in 2019. Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

President Biden announced on Tuesday a new strategy to reduce military and veteran suicide that includes promoting safe firearm storage and guides for firearm dealers.

Why it matters: "Since 2010, more than 65,000 veterans have died by suicide — more than the total number of deaths from combat during the Vietnam War and the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan combined," the White House wrote in a news release.