The Department of Health and Human Services announced on Thursday it will require a large swath of its healthcare workforce to get vaccinated for Covid-19, following a similar move in late July from the VA covering its medical workforce and since extended to most Veterans Health Administration staff.
HHS cited the more transmissible Delta variant of the disease as one reason behind the new mandate, which applies to 25,000 workers across the Indian Health Service and National Institutes of Health who serve in federally-operated health care and clinical research facilities and either interact with patients or could come into contact with them.
“This includes employees, contractors, trainees, and volunteers whose duties put them in contact or potential contact with patients at an HHS medical or clinical research facility.” HHS said the Covid vaccine would be administered the same way that other required vaccinations such as for seasonal flu are already carried out, including processes for religious or medical exemptions.
All members of the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps – one of the federal government’s uniformed services with over 6,000 officers – will also be required to be vaccinated as part of medical readiness and emergency response.
The VA further announced on Thursday that it will expand its vaccine mandate to most VHA employees, volunteers and contractors that work at VHA facilities, visit them or otherwise come into contact with patients and healthcare workers. “Under the expanded mandate, employees who will need to be vaccinated include Hybrid Title 38 and Title 5 VA health care personnel — such as psychologists, pharmacists, social workers, nursing assistants, physical therapists, respiratory therapists, peer specialists, medical support assistants, engineers, housekeepers and other clinical, administrative and infrastructure support employees who come into contact with VA patients and healthcare workers,” the VA said.
The White House has been stepping up pressure on the federal workforce to get vaccinated, recently announcing that unvaccinated federal employees and contractors would be required to attest as to their vaccination status – and if they don’t disclose that, or have not been vaccinated – be subject to mask wearing requirements, frequent testing or screening and other measures.
In addition to HHS healthcare workers and VA medical personnel (and contractors in both cases), the Department of Defense announced this week that the Covid-19 vaccine will be added to the list of required vaccinations for members of the US military – no later than September 15, unless the FDA approves the Covid-19 vaccine, beyond emergency use authorization, before then.
Defense officials have stated that they hope announcing that the vaccine will become mandatory will nudge individuals to get vaccinated voluntarily.