Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough announced on Monday that he will require VA health care personnel to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
The order applies to Title 38 personnel, which includes physicians, dentists, podiatrists, optometrists, registered nurses, physician assistants, expanded-function dental auxiliaries and chiropractors who work in Veterans Health Administration facilities, visit VHA facilities or provide direct care to those VA serves, according to a VA press release.
The VA said each employee will have eight weeks to be fully vaccinated.
“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,” McDonough said. “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.”
In recent weeks, the VA has lost four employees to COVID-19—all of whom were unvaccinated. At least three of those employees died because of the increasingly prevalent Delta variant. There has also been a third outbreak among unvaccinated employees and trainees at a VA Law Enforcement Training Center, according to the VA.
The department cited numerous medical organizations in support of its decision, including the American Hospital Association, America’s Essential Hospitals and a Multisociety group of the leading Infectious Disease Societies.
All VA employees can receive a vaccine free of charge. Employees will also receive four hours of paid administrative leave after demonstrating they have been vaccinated.
As of March, more than 15,000 veterans were actively receiving primary care at the Malcom Randall VAMC in Gainesville, according to the VA website.