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HHS Becomes Third Federal Agency To Mandate Covid Vaccines For Over 25,000 Workers

By News Creatives Authors , in Business , at August 12, 2021

Topline

The Department of Health and Human Services plans to mandate coronavirus vaccines for more than 25,000 of its frontline health workers, the third federal agency – after the Departments Of Defense and Veterans Affairs – to do so amid a resurgence of the virus and a stubborn reluctance among some Americans to get the shots.

Key Facts

Secretary Xavier Becerra announced Thursday that workers at the National Institutes of Health and Indian Health Service who treat or come in contact with patients will be required to take the vaccines.

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy will also require coronavirus shots for members of the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, which aims to promote public health and provide health care to underserved communities.

Unlike President Joe Biden’s announcement last month ordering federal workers to attest to their vaccination status or submit to regular coronavirus testing, workers covered by the HHS order will be required to get vaccinated.

The announcement comes as the U.S. faces a renewed surge of coronavirus cases due to the spread of the highly infectious Delta variant, with hospitalizations spiking in states with low vaccination rates.

The process for requiring the coronavirus vaccines, including medical and religious exemptions, will be the same as for the seasonal influenza vaccines and other “routine” inoculations required for HHS personnel, the department said.

Key Background

The Department of Veterans Affairs last month became the first federal agency to mandate vaccines, requiring the shots for more than 115,000 frontline health care workers at its facilities. The Department of Defense followed suit on Monday, with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin telling troops in a memo obtained by Forbes to get vaccinated no later than mid-September.

Crucial Quote

“Requiring our HHS health care workforce to get vaccinated will protect our federal workers, as well as the patients and people they serve,” Becerra said in a statement, adding that vaccines are “the best tool we have to protect people from COVID-19.”

Tangent

The Biden administration is increasing its appeals to states, localities and businesses to mandate the vaccines as the Food and Drug Administration reportedly nears approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Biden asked business leaders and university heads who have mandated the shots to “talk to their industry peers” and “share best practices and encourage additional action” during a meeting on Wednesday, according to a readout released by the White House.

Chief Critic

The move comes as some Senate Republicans are pushing to reverse federal coronavirus vaccine mandates. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) on Monday introduced a bill to prohibit mandates for any vaccine that initially received emergency use authorization from the FDA, which applies to all three authorized coronaviru vaccines, even after they get full approval.

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