US Department of Veterans Affairs becomes the first federal agency to require healthcare workers get vaccinated

COVID 19 vaccine

The US Department of Veterans Affairs announced on Monday that it will require healthcare employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 within the next two months, becoming the first federal agency to do so.

“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,” Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough said in a written statement. “With this mandate, we can once again make – and keep – that fundamental promise.”

The Veterans Affairs vaccine mandate applies to all frontline healthcare staff, like doctors, nurses, and dentists, the department said.

President Joe Biden confirmed the new policy on Monday afternoon.

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About 70 percent of workers in VA centers are already vaccinated – that’s higher than the national average – but clients in these settings are older and sicker, so VA officials want to increase safety, according to the times. There have been recent outbreaks among staff at health centers in Little Rock, Baltimore, Orlando, and Chicago, according to media reports.

Outbreaks among staff resulted in the deaths of four employees who were unvaccinated in recent weeks, the department said in a statement. At least three of them had contracted the Delta variant of the coronavirus, the agency said.

Outside of health care facilities, there was also an outbreak among unvaccinated trainees at the VA Law Enforcement Training Center, the agency said.

Veterans Affairs is the largest integrated healthcare system in the United States, providing care service to more than 9 million veterans at 171 medical centers and 1,112 outpatient sites across the nation.

The department’s move comes as more state and local governments enact vaccination measures to protect the safety of residents.

On Monday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that all city workers will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by the middle of September or require they be tested for the disease weekly

The vaccine requirement will affect roughly 340,000 municipal workers, including teachers, firefighters, and NYPD officers.