LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -- The Department of Veterans Affairs became the first federal department to require COVID-19 vaccinations. The vaccine will be required for all VA health care employees across the country. All Title 38 employees including physicians, nurses and dentists will have eight weeks to be fully vaccinated.
About 99% of VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System workers have rolled up their sleeves for the COVID-19 vaccine, which is much higher than the VA’s immunization rate nationally.
Of the 3071 employees in Southern Nevada, 1,002 fall under the mandate if they haven’t received their shot yet.
The VA said nationwide the department has lost four employees, all unvaccinated, to COVID-19 in just the last few weeks. The mandate is to protect veterans coming into VA facilities. John Archiquette, with the VA of Southern Nevada, said it will make him feel safer going to his VA provider.
"It’s important that anybody who's interacting with veterans on a daily basis that is potentially most at risk for the spread of COVID-19 [is] vaccinated, and they're protecting not only themselves but the veterans," Archiquette said.
So what happens if a worker decides they don’t want to take the vaccine? The Southern Nevada VA said they're waiting on national guidance on how to enforce the new requirement.
Veterans Affairs is the first federal agency to mandate the vaccine, but this could be a sign that a requirement will be necessary to convince those hesitant to get their shot.
"We're the one agency that directly deals with healthcare and patient care,” Archiquette said. “It makes sense we want to make sure our staff is vaccinated."
President Joe Biden is expected to announce required vaccine, or regular COVID-19 testing, for all federal workers.
The VA of Southern Nevada is still working to get more veterans vaccinated. Less than 50% are fully vaccinated, according to Archiquette. The VA’s medical center is still open for walk-in vaccine appointments.