CORONAVIRUS VACCINES

Coronavirus US: VA makes the vaccine mandatory for health workers

The Department of Veterans Affairs has announced that all public-facing employees working in their facilities will be required to get vaccinated against covid-19.

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Coronavirus US: VA makes the vaccine mandatory for health workers
KENA BETANCUR AFP

The Department of Veterans Affairs has become the first area of the federal government to require frontline healthcare workers to be vaccinated after it introducing a new vaccine mandate.

The decision was announced on Monday and is the first sign that the Biden administration is willing to support vaccine mandates for certain workers in the health industry.

President Biden himself had been unwilling to comment publically on suggestions that requirements may be introduced, but announced from the Oval Office: "Veterans Affairs is going to, in fact, require that all doctors working in facilities are going to have to be vaccinated.”

Why has Veteran Affairs introduced a vaccine mandate?

VA becomes the first federal agency to require a covid-19 vaccine from certain employees and it marks the next stage in the government's efforts to increase vaccine uptake nationally. The decision will apply to an estimated 115,000 employees with patient-facing jobs in the huge department.

Denis McDonough, the secretary of Veterans Affairs, told the New York Times: “I am doing this because it’s the best way to keep our veterans safe, full stop.”

The United States’ vaccination rate is stalling just as the more transmissible Delta variant of covid-19 is starting to take hold and has been blamed for the rising case numbers in all 50 states. The various efforts by the federal government to encourage and entice Americans to get the life-saving shot are struggling to reach a significant number of people, and mandates may become increasingly common in certain workplaces.

New York City and California require workers to be vaccinated or take regular tests

Across the US close to 60 healthcare groups, including the American Medical Association and the American Nurses Association, have called for employers in the medical sector to be more proactive and implement their own vaccination mandates to protect the public. They have issued a joint statement on Monday describing vaccination as “the logical fulfillment of the ethical commitment of all health care workers.”

There has been little sign of employers requiring the workers to get the vaccine but New York City and the state of California have announced that they will be instituting a vaccine mandate for certain employees, or they will have to undergo regular covid-19 testing if they refuse.

In New York City all municipal employees, such as police officers and teachers, will now be subject to the new mandate. In California that new rule applies to all state employees and on-site public and private health care workers.