Major US Agency to Keep COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate Despite White House Announcement

Major US Agency to Keep COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate Despite White House Announcement
Syringes containing the Moderna COVID-19 vaccination for 6 month olds to 5 year olds lay on a table waiting to be used at Temple Beth Shalom in Needham, Mass., on June 21, 2022. (Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images)

A major federal agency is keeping its COVID-19 vaccine mandate in place even as most agencies are ending their vaccination requirements.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is retaining its mandate, Secretary Denis McDonough said in a message to employees reviewed by The Epoch Times.

The White House’s announcement that many mandates are ending “will not impact” the VA, McDonough said. “To ensure the safety of Veterans and our colleagues, VA health care personnel will still be required to be vaccinated at this time,” he told workers.

“As we transition to this new phase of our response to the pandemic, the vaccine (including booster shots) remains the best way to protect you, your families, your colleagues, and Veterans from COVID-19.”

A VA spokesperson declined to provide any data consulted when choosing to keep the mandate in place.

The VA’s website claims that vaccines “help protect you from getting severe illness” and “offer good protection against most COVID-19 variants,” pointing in part to observational data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that indicate the vaccines provide poor protection against symptomatic infection and transient shielding against hospitalization.

No clinical trial efficacy data has been made public for updated shots from Moderna and Pfizer, and none of the vaccines prevent infection or transmission.

The VA is the second-largest federal agency, employing nearly 400,000 people.

The VA was the first U.S. agency to mandate vaccination for its workers.

“We’re mandating vaccines for Title 38 employees because it’s the best way to keep veterans safe, especially as the Delta variant spreads across the country,” McDonough, an appointee of President Joe Biden, said in a statement on July 26, 2021.

The mandate was later expanded to most Veterans Health Administration employees and volunteers. It covers personnel such as psychologists, pharmacists, housekeepers, social workers, volunteers, and contractors.

“Effectively, this means that any Veterans Health Administration (VHA) employee, volunteer, or contractor who works in VHA facilities, visits VHA facilities, or provides direct care to those we serve will still be subject to the vaccine requirement at this time,” McDonough said on Monday.

VA employees who are not health care personnel are not covered by the mandate.

Mandates imposed by two other agencies, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Indian Health Service, are also remaining in place while the agencies review the requirements, the Biden administration said.

The NIH did not return requests for comment, and the health service declined to provide more details.

Most of the administration’s mandates are ending on May 12, the White House said this week. That includes mandates for federal workers and contractors imposed by Biden that were struck down by courts as likely illegal, a mandate for foreign travelers arriving by air, and the requirement that some foreigners arriving by land present proof of vaccination.

Biden had ruled out such requirements before taking office but later claimed that not enough people were getting vaccinated. The mandates were imposed after evidence began emerging that indicated the protection bestowed by the vaccines waned over time, and officials have since cleared multiple booster shots in a bid to restore the flailing protection.

Over 1.13 million people in the United States have died of COVID-19 since the pandemic began more than three years ago, including 1,052 people in the week ending April 26, according to the CDC. That was the lowest weekly death toll from the virus since March 2020.

“While I believe that these vaccine mandates had a tremendous beneficial impact, we are now at a point where we think that it makes a lot of sense to pull these requirements down,” White House COVID-19 coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha said.

Critics decried statements from White House officials regarding the lifting of the mandates.

“They’re patting themselves on the back for unnecessarily coercing people to get a medical product they may not have wanted or stood to benefit from. It didn’t even protect others,” Dr. Tracy Hoeg, a U.S. epidemiologist, said on Twitter.

More than 270 million people in the United States, or just over 81 percent of the population, have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the CDC. But booster uptake has been low, as has receipt of vaccines among children, the last population for whom vaccines were authorized.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Correction: A previous version of this article inaccurately described which workers the VA’s mandate covers. It does not apply to non-health care workers. The Epoch Times regrets this error.

From The Epoch Times

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