COVID-19 vaccination will be required for all U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) employees who deal with patients, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra announced Thursday.
The order will affect more than 25,000 clinicians, researchers, contractors, trainees and volunteers within the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the Indian Health Service, and the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, the Associated Press reported.
“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.
HHS employs more than 80,000 people. Those not covered by new mandate are subject to a White House policy that compels federal workers and contractors to provide their vaccination status and requires those who aren’t vaccinated to get regular COVID-19 testing and places certain workplace restrictions on them, the AP reported.
A growing number of private and public employers in the United States — such as Google, United Airlines and the state of California — are requiring workers to get vaccinated due to surging case numbers driven by the highly contagious Delta variant.
Last month, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs said its health care workers must get vaccinated, and the Pentagon recently announced that all service members will be required to get vaccinated, to maintain military readiness, the AP reported.
While vaccination is nearly universal among doctors, the same isn’t true for all health care workers. Nursing homes and hospitals rely on support staff for tasks ranging from clerical duties to transporting patients, and their vaccination rates often mirror the surrounding communities.
Despite widespread availability of free vaccines, only about half of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows. New COVID-19 cases have surged past 100,000 a day, a level not seen since the deadly wave of the fall and winter gained momentum last November, the AP reported.
Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more on COVID vaccines.
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