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HHS to Require COVID-19 Vaccine for 25,000 Health Care Workers

August 12, 2021 by Dan McCue
Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra testifies before the Senate Finance Committee on President Joe Biden's budget request, at the Capitol in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The Department of Health and Human Services on Thursday announced that it will require more than 25,000 members of its health care workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The new mandate applies to staff at the Indian Health Service and National Institutes of Health who serve in federally-operated health care and clinical research facilities and interact with, or have the potential to come into contact with, patients.

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.

Additionally, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy will immediately require members of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as part of medical readiness procedures associated with their potential deployment as emergency responders.

“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 said in a written statement.

HHS is the latest federal agency to implement a vaccine mandate, joining the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Pentagon.

IHS, NIH and the Commissioned Corps already require such personnel to receive the seasonal influenza vaccine and other routine vaccinations, with processes for medical and religious exemptions, and all agencies would implement this new COVID-19 vaccination requirement using the same processes that are already in place for these other vaccines.

“As President Biden has said, we have to do all we can to increase vaccinations to keep more people safe. Instructing our HHS health care workforce to get vaccinated will protect our federal workers and the patients and people they serve,” Becerra said.

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