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VA says 245,000 more workers must get COVID vaccine to keep their jobs

VA secretary on COVID vaccine mandates
VA secretary on COVID vaccine hesitancy mandates for federal workers 06:22

The Department of Veterans Affairs was the first federal agency to require health care employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19, and now it's expanding who will need to be vaccinated in order to keep their jobs. Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough  announced on "CBS This Morning" Wednesday that the VA is extending that requirement to cover a wider range of workers and volunteers at VA health facilities. 

"A couple of weeks ago, we mandated about 115,000 people toll get the vaccine. These are healthcare professionals who are most regularly in touch with veterans. That's what this is all about—keeping our veterans safe. What we have noticed is that there is an uptick, about a doubling of the rate of vaccinations among those 35,000 healthcare professionals of that first wave getting vaccinated, so that's progressing well. Based on that we decide that we'll start tomorrow, expanding the vaccination requirement to 245,000 additional employees, about 110,000 of them we believe still need the vaccination," McDonough told "CBS This Morning" co-host Tony Dokoupil.

The employees mandated were Title 38 VA health care personnel including physicians, dentists, podiatrists, optometrists, registered nurses, and other health care workers who work in Veterans Health Administration facilities, visit VHA facilities, or provide direct care to those VA serves would need to be vaccinated. Under the new requirement employees under Title 5 VA health care personnel-such as psychologists, pharmacists, medical support assistants, engineers, housekeepers and other clinical, administrative, will also need to be vaccinated. McDonough said adding more employees and volunteers will ensure all veterans who enter VA facilities remain safe.

"We are doing this for a simple reason… This is the best way to protect our veteran patients in the VA system. They've given so much in this country that they out to have the confidence that when it comes to a VA hospital, they'll be safe," McDonough said.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has around 405,000 employees and is the second-largest federal agency in the country. 

"We are working through to make sure each of them is safe and each of them have the vaccinations they need and most importantly our veteran patients are safe. That's what this is all about," McDonough said. "I am focused right here on us. I am sure others [federal agencies] are making these kinds of decisions and thinking this through. Our experiences that this is complicated but it is very manageable. It is leading to an increase in vaccinations and we think that this will improve the outcome for our veterans."

Employees will receive four hours of paid administrative leave to get vaccinated and will need to to provide proof of vaccination in eight weeks.

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