The Department of Veterans Affairs has become the first federal agency to require some employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19. According to the New York Times, the requirement will apply to roughly 115,000 frontline health workers. Those workers include nurses, doctors, physician assistants, and specialists who may come in close contact with patients.
"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," Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough said in a press release. "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."
Workers will have eight weeks to get vaccinated or risk penalties, including termination. Once employees have proven they are fully vaccinated, they will be given four hours of paid administrative leave.
The decision comes after four unvaccinated VA employees died from COVID-19. At least three of the infections were linked to the Delta variant.
McDonough said that he informed the White House of his decision and told the Times that "it's the best way to keep our veterans safe, full stop."