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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 Sep 24, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Vaccines: CDC director maintains Pfizer booster recommendation for high-risk workers — CDC director approves Pfizer boosters, adds eligibility for high-risk workers — FDA approves Pfizer boosters for high-risk individuals, people 65 and up.
  2. Health: America's mismatched COVID fears — Some experts see signs of hope as cases fall — WHO: Nearly 1 in 4 Afghan COVID hospitals shut after Taliban takeover — D.C. goes further than area counties with vaccine mandates.
  3. Politics: Bolsonaro isolating after health minister tests positive at UN summit — United Airlines says 97% of U.S. employees fully vaccinated — Mormon Church to mandate masks in temples.
  4. Education: Health care workers and teachers caught up in booster confusion — Asymptomatic Florida students exposed to COVID no longer have to quarantine — Education Department investigating Texas mask mandate ban.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
Sep 25, 2021 - Health

Federal judge upholds Cincinnati health care system's COVID vaccine mandate

Photo: Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A federal judge ruled Friday that a health care provider serving the Northern Kentucky and Greater Cincinnati region can issue mandates requiring its more than 10,000 employees to get vaccinated or risk termination.

Why it matters: It's the latest ruling to uphold U.S. private employers' right to issue vaccine mandates, and comes after President Biden signed an executive order requiring vaccinations or once-a-week testing for companies with more than 100 employees.

Sep 24, 2021 - Health

Judge denies Massachusetts State Police attempt to delay state vaccine mandate

Photo: Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

A Superior Court judge on Thursday denied the request of the union representing 1,800 Massachusetts State Police troopers to delay the governor's state employee vaccine mandate, the Associated Press reports.

Why it matters: State workers who aren't vaccinated in Massachusetts by Oct. 17 will face disciplinary action, including possible termination.