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Astros, Nationals to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for non-playing staff

Aug. 27 (UPI) -- The Houston Astros and Washington Nationals are mandating COVID-19 vaccines for all non-playing, full-time employees, becoming the first two MLB teams to make vaccinations a condition of employment.

League sources told ESPN and The Athletic on Friday that the Astros were the first team to require vaccinations, doing so with their Major League team as well as their three Minor League clubs.

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The Houston Chronicle reported that Astros leadership sent out emails to non-playing employees in late July, saying those who don't abide by the policy "will be subject to termination." The team set a Sept. 1 deadline for its non-playing staff to receive both vaccination shots.

Earlier this month, the Nationals informed employees they would need to show proof of vaccination or provide a medical or religious exemption from getting vaccinated. According to ESPN, that deadline to provide proof was Thursday.

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The vetting of exemptions is expected to roll into September, and employees without an exemption or proof of vaccine will be terminated.

"Like many organizations, the Washington Nationals decided to make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for all full-time staff," the team said in a statement to ESPN. "Employees were notified of this policy on August 12 and had until August 26 to either provide proof of full vaccination, proof of first shot or apply for an exemption.

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"As a company, we have a responsibility to do everything we can to keep one another safe and felt that mandating vaccines was the absolute right thing to do for our employees and our community."

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Outside of Major League Baseball, vaccination mandates across professional sports in North America have been more common. Multiple NHL teams have made vaccines for all employees mandatory, and the NBA on Friday said it would require certain employees -- including coaches, front-office officials and medical personnel -- to be vaccinated.

Many NFL teams have vaccination policies as well, and the league has proposed a vaccine mandate for players, a key issue that the NFL Players Association has pushed back against.

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