VA mandates vaccines for clinical staff

Agency chief Denis McDonough cited the spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19 as part of the reason behind the new vaccination policy.

hand of medical staff in blue glove injecting coronavirus covid-19 vaccine in vaccine syringe to arm muscle of african american man for coronavirus covid-19 immunization  M By Mongkolchon Akesin shutterstock ID: 1726888900
 

The Department of Veterans Affairs announced on Monday that agency employees involved in patient care have eight weeks to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

According to a VA COVID-19 data dashboard, just over 300,000 VA employees are fully vaccinated against coronavirus infection, along with 28,982 "federal partners." Overall, VA has a workforce of more than 380,000 – most of whom are involved in patient care in the Veterans Health Administration.

As of July 23, according to VA data, 146 agency employees have died as a result of coronavirus infection. The VA has also reported 12,679 deaths from COVID-19 among its patient population, with 4,237 inpatient deaths and 8,442 known deaths outside of VA facilities.

"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," VA Secretary Denis McDonough said in a statement. "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."

The mandate makes the VA the first federal agency to require COVID-19 vaccinations for employees. VA staff will receive four hours of paid administrative leave post-vaccination, the agency said.

The move comes less than a week after the agency announced a reset of relations with unions representing agency personnel after a very contentious period during the Trump administration.

The VA's press release doesn't specify any consequences for employees who are not vaccinated by the eight-week deadline.

This is a breaking story. It will be updated with new information as it is obtained.

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