Veterans Affairs becomes 1st federal agency to mandate vaccines for workers

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The Department of Veterans Affairs is mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for 115,000 of its front-line healthcare workers, the first federal agency to do so, officials announced July 26, as reported by The New York Times.

"I am doing this because it's the best way to keep our veterans safe, full stop," Denis McDonough, secretary of Veterans Affairs, said in a July 26 phone interview with Times. The agency is the largest integrated healthcare system in the nation.

The mandate will apply to "the most patient-facing" workers, such as physicians, dentists, nurses, physician assistants and some specialists, Mr. McDonough said. Starting July 28, those workers have eight weeks to get fully vaccinated or face penalties, including possible removal.

Department of Veterans Affairs workers can appeal vaccine mandates based on medical or religious reasons. "I don't know what to expect here," Mr. McDonough said. "What I know is basically this is the most important step for us to take in terms of enhancing veteran patient safety."

The number of hospitals and health systems requiring COVID-19 vaccination for employees is growing, with recent court decisions upholding employers' right to require vaccinations.  

 

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