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Deadline nearing for most VA employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19

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(WKOW) -- This summer, the Department of Veterans Affairs became the first federal agency to require COVID-19 vaccines for employees and volunteers who work in VA facilities or provide direct care to those the VA serves.

Dr. Elizabeth Brill, the deputy chief medical officer of the Veterans Health Administration, told 27 News that they wanted to protect their patients and staff.

"What we're seeing today in all of our hospitals, in VA, and across the rest of the country, is that the vast majority of patients in hospitals are unvaccinated," she said. "That's a lot of needless disease and a lot of needless death, and we see that in our own population of veterans and also our staff members."

Healthcare workers need to be fully vaccinated by October 8, and all other personnel will need to be fully vaccinated by November 22. Brill said they're working with employees closely to dispel myths about vaccines, answers questions, and address concerns.

"However, it is a mandatory vaccine for anyone who is not exempted from taking it," she said. "There would be progressive discipline for those who do not opt to take the vaccine by the deadline."

Brill did not expand on what that "progressive discipline" would entail.

Veterans who get services at a VA facility would not be required to get a COVID-19 vaccine, but Brill says they can get vaccinated at VA facilities if they wish.

"The VA is committed to creating a safe environment for any veteran who comes in to receive care," she said. "No veteran should be placed at risk by their health care provider or anyone else in the health care facility."

For more information about COVID-19 vaccines, VA facilities, or other information veterans need, click here.