The Department of Veterans Affairs will require its health care employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, becoming the first major federal agency to implement such a mandate.
“We’re mandating vaccines for Title 38 employees because it’s the best way to keep Veterans safe, especially as the Delta variant spreads across the country,” Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough said in a statement.
Title 38 personnel, who include doctors, dentists, and registered nurses, will have eight weeks to get fully vaccinated. Fully vaccinated means getting both Pfizer or Moderna shots, or the single-shot Johnson & Johnson jab.
If employees refuse, they could be fired.
The department pointed to how dozens of medical groups, including the American Hospital Association, have recently voiced support for companies that mandate vaccines for all health care workers. The agency said four employees—all of them unvaccinated—have died from COVID-19 in recent weeks, and that there has recently been an outbreak among both unvaccinated employees and trainees at one of the agency’s training centers.
“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. With this mandate, we can once again make—and keep—that fundamental promise,” McDonough said.
Asked about the mandate at the White House, President Joe Biden said, “Yes, Veteran Affairs is going to, in fact, require that all doctors working in their facilities are gonna have to be vaccinated.”