Washington, July 27 : The US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that it will require its frontline healthcare workers to be vaccinated against Covid-19, making it the first federal agency to mandate compulsory inoculation.
Announced by Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough on Monday, the order will make full vaccination mandatory for VA healthcare personnel, including physicians, dentists, podiatrists, optometrists, registered nurses, physician assistants and some experts, who work in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) facilities, visit VHA facilities or provide direct care to those VA serves, reports Xinhua news agency.
"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." According to The New York Times, McDonough said the employees have eight weeks beginning on Wednesday to get fully vaccinated, or they will face penalties including possibly being removed from their jobs at the agency.
The VA said in the press release that four of its employees died of Covid-19 in recent weeks.
President Joe Biden confirmed the new requirement when asked about it during a meeting with Iraqi Prime minister.
"Yes, Veterans Affairs is going to in fact require that all doctors working in facilities are going to have to be vaccinated," he said.
The VA is one of the largest federal employers in the US, housing the biggest integrated health care system in the country and serving over 9 million enrolled veterans.
As the more transmissible Delta variant continues its rampant spread in the US, a slew of major medical groups urged in a joint statement Monday that all healthcare workers in the country should be vaccinated.
"Because of highly contagious variants, including the Delta variant, and significant numbers of unvaccinated people, Covid-19 cases, hospitalisations and deaths are once again rising throughout the US.
"Vaccination is the primary way to put the pandemic behind us and avoid the return of stringent public health measures," read the statement.
The pandemic has killed 627,039 people in the US and infected a total of 35,287,269 others.
The Biden administration has been struggling to convince those resisting vaccination to get their jabs, as the rate of the fully vaccinated population remains largely stalled, standing at 49.1 per cent, according to data updated Monday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Latest updates on Coronavirus (COVID-19)