The Department of Veterans Affairs is making COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for health care workers.
The mandate applies to health care workers who work at or visit Veterans Health Administration facilities as well as to those who supply direct care to people the agency serves, according to a press release.
Individuals will have eight weeks to get fully vaccinated and that they will get four hours of paid administrative leave after showing that they have been vaccinated.
"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."
The Associated Press noted that it was it was not clear what would happen to VA workers who decline to get vaccinated. The VA said vaccination will be a requirement "absent a medical or religious exemption," according to the outlet.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 49.1 percent of the U.S. population has been fully vaccinated while 56.8 percent has received at least one dose.
The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines both involve receiving two shots while the Johnson & Johnson's Janssen vaccine involves just one shot.
So far there have been more than 34.5 million COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and more than 611,000 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
The VA noted that four unvaccinated employees have recently passed away from COVID-19 and that at least three of them passed away due to the Delta variant.
"There has also been an outbreak among unvaccinated employees and trainees at a VA Law Enforcement Training Center, the third such outbreak during the pandemic," the news release also noted.
The American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics and dozens of other groups are signatories on a joint statement calling for mandatory vaccinations for health care and long-term care workers.
"Due to the recent COVID-19 surge and the availability of safe and effective vaccines, our health care organizations and societies advocate that all health care and long-term care employers require their workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine," the joint statement declares.
"While we recognize some workers cannot be vaccinated because of identified medical reasons and should be exempted from a mandate, they constitute a small minority of all workers. Employers should consider any applicable state laws on a case-by-case basis," the statement notes.