Xavier Becerra, the Health and Human Services (HHS) candidate, attends his Senate Finance Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on February 24, 2021.
Michael Reynolds | Swimming pool | Reuters
The Department of Health and Human Services is ordering Covid-19 vaccine syringes for the agency’s 25,000-plus employees, making it the latest government agency to require vaccinations in response to the global surge in the Delta variant.
The mandate announced Thursday by HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra covers the Indian Health Service, the National Institutes of Health, and the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps – three agencies overseen by the department – and staff who work with patients in medical or clinical research facilities of the federal government work together.
“The majority of these workers are already vaccinated,” Becerra said Thursday in an interview with MSNBC’s Craig Melvin. “We are telling them, precisely for the sake of public health and safety, their safety, the people they come in contact with, their safety, we want to make sure they are all vaccinated.”
Members of the commanded corps must also be vaccinated against the virus if they are called to active duty as emergency services. The new mandate follows the agency’s existing religious and medical exemptions for vaccinations against influenza and other diseases.
“Our ultimate goal is the health and safety of the American public, including our federal employees, and vaccines are the best tool we have to protect people from COVID-19, prevent the spread of the Delta variant, and save lives” Becerra said in a statement from HHS.
The decision is made just days after the Pentagon issued a Covid vaccination mandate for all service members to be vaccinated by mid-September. The Department of Veterans Affairs became the first major federal agency to issue a Covid vaccination mandate for health workers last month.
President Joe Biden also announced mandatory vaccination for all federal employees on July 29, giving them the alternative of having weekly coronavirus tests instead of showing proof of vaccination. HHS did not state whether employees could choose to get tested for the coronavirus regularly instead of getting vaccinated.
Company executives are also increasingly exercising vaccine mandates. Companies including Google, Facebook, United Airlines and Tyson Foods are now demanding that some or all of their employees be vaccinated as the number of coronavirus cases in the US has risen recently.