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Veterans Affairs mandates COVID-19 vaccine for medical employees

A woman receives a COVID-19 vaccine as President Joe Biden visits a Veterans Affairs COVID-19 vaccination center in Washington, D.C. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
A woman receives a COVID-19 vaccine as President Joe Biden visits a Veterans Affairs COVID-19 vaccination center in Washington, D.C. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

July 26 (UPI) -- The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs will mandate COVID-19 vaccines for healthcare personnel, the VA secretary announced Monday.

The mandate applies to Title 38 VA healthcare personnel, such as physicians, nurses, dentists and chiropractors, "who work in Veterans Health Administration facilities, visit VHA facilities or provide direct care to those VA serves," according to the announcement.

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The mandate gives each of them up to eight weeks to become fully vaccinated. It's the first such mandate at a federal agency in the United States.

"We're mandating vaccines for Title 38 employees because it's the best way to keep veterans safe, especially as the Delta variants spreads across the country," Secretary Denis McDonough said. "Whenever a veteran or VA employee sets foot ins 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."

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The announcement comes on the same day over 50 major healthcare groups advocated for employers mandating COVID-19 vaccines for healthcare workers.

Both moves come after Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky comes recently warned that COVID-19 was becoming "a pandemic of the unvaccinated."

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The CDC chief explained that there was a rise in COVID-19 cases and deaths due to the Delta variant, especially among the unvaccinated population.

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In response, California has implemented "first-in-the-nation measures" to urge state employees and healthcare workers to get vaccinated, according to a statement Monday from Gov. Gavin Newsom's office.

"It's going to take renewed efforts to protect Californians from the dangerous Delta variant," Newsom said.

Under the new measures, to take effect in August, state workers in "healthcare and high-risk congregate settings," are required to show proof of full vaccination or be tested once a week.

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"California has administered more vaccines than any other state, with 75% of those eligible having gotten at least one dose, and we were weeks ahead of meeting President [Joe] Biden's 70% goal," California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly added in the statement. "But we must do more to fight disinformation and encourage vaccine-hesitant communities and individuals."

In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Monday the city's roughly 340,000 municipal workers must be vaccinated by mid-September or tested weekly, and urged the private sector to require similar mandates, citing the danger of the Delta variant.

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Across the state of New York, more than 56% of the population has been fully vaccinated, and more than 62% have received one dose, according to Bloomberg's COVID-19 tracker.

The same tracker shows that more than 49% have been fully vaccinated across the country, and nearly 57% have received one dose.

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