By Noah Weiland
The Department of Health and Human Services on Thursday said it would require more than 25,000 health workers — including contractors and volunteers — to receive coronavirus vaccines, becoming the latest federal agency to implement such a mandate.
Members of the Indian Health Service and the National Institutes of Health who work in federally run facilities and deal with patients, and the U.S. Public Health Service, a commissioned corps of medical officers led by the surgeon general, are subject to the requirement, the department said. Those health workers are already required to receive flu vaccines and other inoculations.
“We are looking at every way we can to increase vaccinations to keep more people safe,” Xavier Becerra, the health and human services secretary, said in a statement. “And requiring our H.H.S. health care workforce to get vaccinated will protect our federal workers, as well as the patients and people they serve.”
The Department of Veterans Affairs was the first federal agency to issue a vaccine mandate, saying last month that it would require 115,000 of its frontline health workers to be vaccinated. The Defense Department said earlier this week that it would seek to make coronavirus vaccinations mandatory for the country’s 1.3 million active-duty troops “no later” than the middle of next month.
The agency moves are part of the Biden administration’s growing push to enact and encourage vaccine requirements inside and outside of the government. On Wednesday, President Biden met with business executives and a university president who had enforced vaccination requirements, encouraging their efforts. He urged them to call on other leaders to do the same.
The H.H.S. requirement goes beyond Mr. Biden’s announcement last month that civilian federal workers who remained unvaccinated would have to submit to regular testing, social distancing, mask wearing and limits on official travel.
Mr. Biden said at the time that he was asking federal agencies to find ways for all federal contractors to be required to be vaccinated as a condition of their work. And he urged companies and local governments to adopt his rules.
The administration’s emphasis on vaccine requirements comes at a fraught moment in the nation’s vaccination campaign, with tens of millions of adults still holding out on receiving a shot as the more contagious Delta variant of the virus has caused hospitals around the country to be stretched to their limits. About 71.3 percent of adults have received at least one dose, and vaccination rates have begun climbing again, to over 700,000 new doses administered every day.
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