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Why these federal employees are required to get the COVID-19 vaccine

Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough announced Monday that VA health care workers will be required to be fully vaccinated in 8 weeks

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The Veterans Affairs Department hospital in east Denver.

In this Oct. 4, 2017, file photo, the exterior of the Veterans Affairs Department hospital is shown in east Denver. The Department of Veterans Affairs announced that all its health care workers will be required to get the coronavirus vaccine.

David Zalubowski, Associated Press

Health care workers who treat our nation’s military veterans will be required to get the coronavirus vaccine, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced Monday.

VA Secretary Denis McDonough said COVID-19 vaccines will be required for all health care personnel and that its employees will need to be fully vaccinated in eight weeks. The VA is the “first, major federal agency” to issue such a mandate, according to The Associated Press.

McDonough said he is requiring that medical professionals get the vaccines for several reasons, which include concerns over the growing delta variant outbreak, and, ultimately, to protect veterans and VA employees.

  • “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.”
  • According to the VA press release, the mandate applies to Title 38 employees, which includes “physicians, dentists, podiatrists, optometrists, registered nurses, physician assistants, expanded-function dental auxiliaries and chiropractors.”

On Monday afternoon, it wasn’t clear what would happen if employees were not fully vaccinated in the next two months. The VA did not say what the consequences would be if, or when, an employee refused.

  • None of the COVID-19 vaccines used in the U.S. — which are being administered under a federal emergency use authorization and have proven to combat the coronavirus — have been fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration, the AP reported.

The coronavirus is killing veterans and unvaccinated VA employees

In its announcement, the VA said four of its employees had recently died from the coronavirus. None of the employees, the VA said, had been vaccinated. Three were killed by the delta variant.

The virus has also killed thousands of veterans.

  • Since the start of the pandemic, more than 12,600 VA patients have died as a result of coronavirus-related complications, according to Military Times.
  • They also reported that COVID-19 cases among VA patients have risen more than 170% in the last month.

AMVETS national executive director Joe Chenelly said the VA made the right decision to require coronavirus vaccination, Military Times reported.

  • “Mandating all patient-facing staff in VA medical facilities to be fully vaccinated in order to continue serving veterans is the right thing to do,” Chenelly said in a statement, according to Military Times.
  • “Every VA employee coming into contact with a veteran should be expected to take every measure possible to ensure they are not endangering veterans who are in VA facilities,” he added.