VA to mandate COVID-19 vaccine for its health workers

The Department of Veterans Affairs will require its front-line health care workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19, a move that comes as vaccine mandates from employers are on the rise.

“I am doing this because it’s the best way to keep our veterans safe, full stop,” Denis McDonoughDenis Richard McDonoughVeteran suicides dropped to lowest level in 12 years Veterans grapple with new Afghanistan: 'Was my service worth it?' VA adds 245K more employees to vaccine mandate MORE, the secretary of Veterans Affairs, told The New York Times in an interview.

The move will apply to 115,000 employees who have the most "patient-facing" jobs, the Times reported, and they will have eight weeks to get the shots if they have not already.

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The move from the sprawling federal agency is the first time any part of the federal government has mandated COVID-19 vaccines, a step that the Biden administration has generally shied away from.

Calls for more mandates from employers are on the rise, though. New York City announced a mandate for its workers earlier on Monday. And more than 50 health care groups, including the American Medical Association, on Monday also called for health care employers to mandate that all workers be vaccinated.

As the vaccination rate in the U.S. lags, even as the delta variant fuels new spikes, many experts say persuasion is reaching its limits and mandates from employers will play an important role.

White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiBiden, Harris push big lie about Border Patrol 14 Mexican soldiers briefly detained in El Paso Progressives seething over Biden's migrant policies MORE praised the statement from health groups on Monday but did not issue a full-throated call for other employers to follow suit with mandates.

Asked if the federal government would mandate vaccines for federal workers across many different agencies, Psaki said she had no announcements to preview.