The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday announced that it requires employees in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) who may come in contact with patients to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
"Staff at the Indian Health Service (IHS) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) who serve in federally-operated health care and clinical research facilities and interact with, or have the potential to come into contact with, patients will be required to receive the Covid-19 vaccine," HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement.
According to the secretary, those subject to the new rule are numbered over 25,000, including "employees, contractors, trainees, and volunteers whose duties put them in contact or potential contact with patients at an HHS medical or clinical research facility."
An HHS official was quoted by CNN as saying the requirement is expected to go into effect by the end of September.
Also included in the more than 25,000 officials are members of the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, who must also receive vaccinations in accordance with a Thursday announcement by U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will also expand its previous vaccine mandate for health care workers at Veterans Health Administration facilities on Friday, according to a press release issued by the department Thursday.
After the expansion, workers such as psychologists, pharmacists, social workers, nursing assistants, physical therapists, respiratory therapists, peer specialists, medical support assistants, engineers, housekeepers and other clinical, administrative and infrastructure support employees who come into contact with VA patients and health care workers will be required to administer the jabs, according to the press release.
The announcements add to a growing list of vaccine requirements recently imposed by an array of federal departments and agencies for their employees.
On Monday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said he would act to require that all active-duty members of the U.S. military be vaccinated against the virus, as Biden last month directed him to do so.
Biden announced in late July that all federal civilian workforce in the executive branch were required to attest to their vaccination status, or subject to regular testing, mask-wearing and social-distancing while on the job, as well as restrictions on official travel.
By aggressively pushing for vaccination while carefully crafting the plans so as to ensure policies are within the purview of its authority, the Biden administration wants to set an example for state and local governments and the private sector, at a time when the highly transmissible Delta variant continues to wreak havoc across the nation.
The hoped-for outcomes are playing out. In addition to private-sector entities such as Amtrak and Citi Bank that have issued vaccine mandates for employees, state governments also followed suit.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee, for example, announced Monday that most state workers, as well as hundreds of thousands of private health care and long-term care employees, would be required to show proof of vaccination or face losing their jobs.
Vaccination proofs are also being required for teachers and school staffs in California, as well as workers and customers in New York City.