The Department of Veterans Affairs announced Monday it would require medical employees to be fully vaccinated within eight weeks, becoming the first federal agency to impose a vaccine mandate. The requirement will affect about 115,000 employees.
A press release said the mandate is targeted towards Title 38 employees, which includes “physicians, dentists, podiatrists, optometrists, registered nurses, physician assistants, expanded-function dental auxiliaries and chiropractors — who work in Veterans Health Administration facilities, visit VHA facilities or provide direct care to those VA serves.”
VA Secretary Denis McDonough cited the COVID-19 Delta variant as a reason for forcing employees to get the vaccine. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki confirmed President Biden’s support for the mandate, and hinted that other health care providers may follow suit.
“These actions, in our view, are meant to keep patients and employees safe, and in fact I expect our own federal health care providers may look at similar requirements, as they do with other vaccines,” Psaki said.
While the VA mandate is the first from a federal agency, similar vaccine requirements have already been introduced on the state and local levels. In California, millions of health care workers in the public and private sectors, along with 246,000 state employees, will be forced to show proof of vaccination or else undergo weekly testing.
California Gov. Newsom compared not getting the vaccine to the crime of killing people by drinking and driving.
“We’re at a point in this epidemic, this pandemic where individuals’ choice not to get vaccinated is now impacting the rest of us in a profound and devastating and deadly way,” Newsom said. “You don’t have the choice to go out and drink and drive and put everyone else’s lives at risk. That’s the equivalent of this moment with the deadliness and efficiency of the Delta virus.”