The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will require its front-facing health care employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine. With this, the HHS becomes the second federal department to have vaccine mandates for its workforce.
The HHS announced Thursday that the policy would apply to more than 25,000 officials from its workforce. This will include staff at the Indian Health Services and the National Institutes of Health who operate HHS’s health and clinical research facilities. The United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps will also be included in the mandate as it has more than 6,000 health workers responding to public health crises all over the country.
The HHS mandate will also be applicable to its contractors, trainees, and volunteers who can potentially have contact with patients at a federal medical or clinical research facility. Around 20 to 30 percent of the population covered by the HHS vaccine mandate is currently unvaccinated.
HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said they had to put the mandate in place with the main objective of health and safety of the American public, including their federal workforce. He added that the vaccine is the best tool to protect people from the deadly virus, especially because the Delta variant continues to create a surge of new cases every day.
The first department that rolled out a vaccine mandate was the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). It created the mandate in late July, just after the Biden administration determined that a mandate by private businesses and public agencies to require their staff and employees to get COVID-19 vaccination is legal.
The VA expanded its mandate to include most of its employees, contractors, and volunteers who work in Veterans Health Administration facilities or otherwise come into contact with VA patients and health workers.
The Department of Defense also recently announced its plans to require its service members to get vaccinated.