US President Joe Biden has confirmed that the Covid-19 vaccines will be mandatory for all Veterans Affairs (VA) health care employees, making it the first such mandate to be introduced by a federal agency.
When asked in a press conference by a journalist about VA’s announcement, Biden responded, saying: “You are such a pain in the neck but I’m going to answer your question because we’ve known each other for so long.”
“Yes, Veterans Affairs is, in fact, going to require that all docs working in that and facilities are going to be required to be vaccinated.”
The announcement was first made on Monday by VA Secretary Denis McDonough, stating that the mandate was a “necessary step” to keep the veterans it serves “safe.”
The mandate includes physicians, dentists, nurses, and others who work in patient-facing roles, and will require all employees to be vaccinated within eight weeks or risk losing their jobs.
McDonough said: “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.
“Whenever a veteran or a 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.”
An administration official stressed the importance of the move, stating that it was imperative for patients to feel safe and not risk catching Covid-19 from their health care providers. Currently, the Department of Veterans Affairs is the only federal agency (so far) that has introduced mandatory vaccines for its employees.
The announcement was made just after four VA employees reportedly died with Covid-19 in recent weeks. According to reports, all four members of staff were unvaccinated and the agency said that at least three of the deceased died due to the delta variant of the coronavirus.
Furthermore, the announcement also comes amid a reported outbreak among unvaccinated employees and trainees at a VA Law Enforcement Training Center.
Those who receive the vaccine will also be given four hours of paid administrative leave after they prove they have got the jab.