VA mandates COVID-19 vaccines for health care workers

Denis Mcdonough

FILE – In this March 4, 2021 file photo, Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington. The Department of Veterans Affairs on Monday became the first major federal agency to require health care workers to get COVID-19 vaccines. The decision comes as the aggressive delta variant spreads and some communities report troubling increases in hospitalizations among unvaccinated people. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON — The Department of Veterans Affairs announced Monday that COVID-19 vaccines will be mandatory for Title 38 VA health care personnel who work in Veterans Health Administration (VHA) facilities, visit VHA facilities or provide direct care to those that the VA serves.

Each employee will have eight weeks to be fully vaccinated as the VA is taking steps to keep the Veterans it serves safe.

“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,” Veterans Affairs Secretary Dennis 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. With this mandate, we can once again make — and keep — that fundamental promise.”

The department’s decision is supported by numerous medical organizations including the American Hospital Association, America’s Essential Hospitals and a multi-society group of the leading Infectious Disease Societies. The American Medical Association, American Nurses Association, American College of Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, Association of American Medical Colleges, and National Association for Home Care and Hospice also endorsed mandating COVID-19 vaccination for health care workers.

The departments decision came when nearly 60 leading medical and health care organizations called for health care facilities to require their workers to get vaccinated.

In recent weeks, the VA has lost four employees to COVID-19 — all of whom were unvaccinated. At least three of those employees had the increasingly prevalent Delta variant.

All VA employees — including physicians, dentists, podiatrists, optometrists, registered nurses, physician assistants, expanded-function dental auxiliaries and chiropractors — are eligible to be vaccinated at no personal cost at any VA facility. There is a longstanding policy in the health care industry for staff to stay up-to-date with vaccinations, including annual flu shots. However, there is a general rule to allow exceptions for medical reasons, such as known allergies.

Categories: Coronavirus, National News