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The latest news about the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 in Montana.

Veterans Affairs Mandates COVID Vaccines For Its Health Care Workers

Closeup of a mask on a person's face.
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The Department of Veterans Affairs Monday became the nation’s first major federal agency to require health care workers to get COVID-19 vaccines. Montana VA officials are now carefully reviewing the new mandate that applies to about 500 workers in the state.

Montana VA officials tell MTPR the new directive mandating COVID-19 vaccines for specific health care workers includes VA physicians, registered nurses, dentists, optometrists; basically, anyone providing direct care to veterans.

“Our main priority at the Veterans Health Administration is to provide safe, high-quality care to our veterans,” Montana VA Executive Director, Dr. Judy Hayman says.

Montana VA Health Care System Chief of Staff, Dr. JP Maganito, estimates over half the agency’s health care workers are already vaccinated. Officials are combing through several different software record-keeping systems for an exact head count.

According to Judy Hayman, medical staff who cannot produce proof of vaccination and who also refuse to claim a medical or religious exemption could possibly undergo “action based upon not complying with the directive.”

“It could be just a conversation with the employee and then depending on how it unfolds, there could be up to and including removal from federal service,” Hayman says.

JP Maganito says he not worried about widespread noncompliance.

“Because I am confident, and I know our staff have expressed to me that they understand the value of vaccinations.”

VA employees covered by the new mandate will have eight weeks to comply.

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