VA becomes first federal agency to mandate vaccinations

Eufemia Didonato

On Monday, the Veterans Affairs Department (VA) announced that it would require its medical employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19. This extends to all health care personnel working in VA facilities, including physicians, dentists, podiatrists, optometrists, registered nurses, physician assistants, expanded-function dental auxiliaries and chiropractors.

The agency — now the first government agency to mandate vaccinations for some of its employees — cited the move as a preventative measure to keep veterans safe.

“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,” said Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough. “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.”

At the onset of the announcement, eligible employees will have eight weeks to be fully vaccinated, putting the deadline roughly at Sept. 13.

Officials confirmed that in recent weeks, the VA has recorded four personnel deaths due to COVID-19. All of these employees were unvaccinated. Three of these employees died due to delta variant infections. 

A concurrent COVID-19 outbreak also occurred among unvaccinated VA employees and trainees at the VA Law Enforcement Training Center.

The VA’s decision to mandate vaccines for select employees comes the same day as a bevy of medical professional organizations penned a letter advocating the mandatory vaccinations of medical professionals who interact with potentially vulnerable patients in person. 

The recent outbreak of COVID-19 infection caused by the contagious delta variant has hit southern states like Arkansas and Missouri hard, which currently have large populations of unvaccinated individuals. 

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