The Department of Veteran's Affairs (VA) on Monday announced that it would begin requiring its medical employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
The VA is the first government agency to require employees to get a shot.
In a statement, the VA said that Title 38 employees must be fully vaccinated within eight weeks. Title 38 employees include physicians, dentists, podiatrists, optometrists, registered nurses, physician assistants, expanded-function dental auxiliaries and chiropractors.
"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. "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."
Hospitals across the country have already instituted similar mandates. In June, a federal judge sided with a Houston-area hospital that required all of its employees to be vaccinated by early June. Methodist Hospital later said that 153 employees either resigned or were terminated after refusing to get vaccinated.
The announcement came the same day that more than 50 major medical groups are calling on health care and long-term care facilities to mandate employees be vaccinated to slow the spread of the virus. Also on Monday, California and New York City said they would start requiring employees to get vaccinated or submit to regular COVID-19 testing.
The new mandate by the VA comes as the dangerous delta variant continues to spread across the country. While health experts say that the more contagious strain poses a significant threat to those who have still not been vaccinated, the Pfizer, Moderna and J&J vaccines offer substantial protection against the delta variant.