The CDC has reported COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations rising very quickly this summer, as a new variant “Delta” has been spreading. Federal officials have estimated around 97% of those hospitalized are unvaccinated. The VA has seen a sharp increase in cases amongst staff and veterans in their care as well, and the administration is taking action to do what they feel will protect the staff and veterans using their services.
The VA became the first federal agency to issue a vaccination mandate for its healthcare and front-line employees, at the end of July 2021.
- From June to July, the VA reported a 170% increase in COVID-19 active cases amongst their health care system.
- Since spring of 2020, at least 147 VA staff members and 12,700 VA patients have lost their lives due to the virus or complications related to it.
- Masks are again being mandated for all employees and visitors in most department buildings. This is for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.
- VA Title 38 employees, which includes healthcare and front-line staff, have until mid-September to receive the vaccination or they could lose their job. There are approximately 115,000 Title 38 employees, and around 70% are currently vaccinated.
- VA leaders are also considering an order that would require ALL VA employees to be vaccinated in order to keep their jobs.
- Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough said, “We’re seeing staffing requirements increase as it is…we’re going to continue to see pressure on the system. And that’s something that I can’t sit and wait to develop for our veterans, especially as we get into the fall with what we expect to be greater COVID infections.”
AMVETS officials have spoken out in support of the vaccination mandate. “Mandating all patient-facing staff in VA medical facilities to be fully vaccinated in order to continue serving veterans is the right thing to do,” said Joe Chenelly, AMVETS National Executive Director. “Every VA employee coming into contact with a veteran should be expected to take every measure possible to ensure they are not endangering veterans who are in VA facilities.”
“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,” VA Secretary Denis McDonough said in a statement. “With this mandate, we can once again make and keep that fundamental promise.”
The Title 38 employee vaccination mandate will most likely also receive harsh criticism, opposition and possible legal action. Many individuals and groups view vaccination mandates as unconstitutional and infringing on their rights. There is still a concern among some that the vaccine hasn’t been around long enough for us to truly know the longterm effects and safety of it, as it is not yet fully approved by the FDA. It is currently being used under ‘Emergency Use Authorization’, which legally loosely translates into the vaccine being voluntary and optional at this point.
For those veterans who want to get the vaccination, contact your local VA to find out when and where to go. All veterans and their spouses and caregivers are eligible for the vaccine. https://www.va.gov/health-care/covid-19-vaccine/
How do you feel about this vaccination mandate? We’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback!