The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra, on Thursday, Aug. 12, confirmed that more than 25,000 health care staff and volunteers are required to get vaccinated.
“Staff at the Indian Health Service (IHS) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) who serve in federally-operated health care and clinical research facilities and interact with, or have the potential to come into contact with, patients will be required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine,” Becerra said in a statement, CNN reported.
Becerra noted that the rule would also apply to contractors, trainees, and volunteers at HHS medical and clinical research institutions. The outlet added that the requirement would go into effect by September.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is also expanding its immunization mandate to most of its health care staff at Veterans Health Administration facilities, which also applies to nearly all employees, volunteers, and contractors at those facilities. The mandate used to impose mainly on physicians from those areas.
While all the federal employees will be obliged to be vaccinated or subjected to regular testing, the HHS and the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) requires all staff to get vaccinated without any alternative.
U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy added the mandate would further apply to nearly 25,000 members of the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.
In recent weeks, the Biden administration has become more rigorous with COVID-19 mandates in facing the highly transmissive Delta variant, which has brought other countries such as India and Indonesia to their knees.
President Joe Biden declared earlier this month that all federal employees must certify that they have been vaccinated against COVID-19 or face punitive protocols.
Aside from federal agencies, private-sector firms are being pressed by the U.S. President to follow in his footsteps and implement vaccine policies for their workers.
An official at the White House said the move with the HHS and VA employees would help push the tentative private sectors to proceed faster with their vaccination program.
“We will continue to look at every lever that the federal government can pull,” a White House official said, given that more measures are being evaluated to encourage more vaccination and counter Republican efforts to repeal mask regulations.