The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services officially enacted a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for more than 25,000 members of its healthcare workforce.
"Our number one goal is the health and safety of the American public, including our federal workforce – and vaccines are the best tool we have to protect people from COVID-19, prevent the spread of the Delta variant, and save lives" HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra wrote in a statement, announcing the mandate.
"As President [Joe] Biden has said, we have to do all we can to increase vaccinations to keep more people safe. Instructing our HHS healthcare workforce to get vaccinated will protect our federal workers and the patients and people they serve."
Staff at the Indian Health Service (IHS) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) who serve in federally operated healthcare 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. This includes employees, contractors, trainees, and volunteers whose duties put them in contact or potential contact with patients at an HHS medical or clinical research facility, according to the release.
Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy will also immediately require members of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as part of medical readiness procedures to prepare for any potential deployment need as emergency responders.
There are processes for medical and religious exemptions and the IHS, NIH and the Commissioned Corps already require personnel to receive the seasonal influenza vaccine and other routine vaccinations.
The Biden administration has mandated vaccines for federal workers and the Department of Veterans Affairs also requires its healthcare providers and personnel to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and the Department of Defense plans to add the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of required vaccinations for U.S. service members as soon as Sept. 15.
The Food and Drug Administration has yet to issue a full approval for Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccines; at present they are only authorized for emergency use. Official approval for the Pfizer vaccine is expected to come first some time in early September, according to reports.
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