On Monday, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced that it would mandate the COVID-19 vaccine for all so-called Title 38 health care personnel, including physicians, dentists, nurses, physician assistants, chiropractors and others who have direct contact with patients.
So how does Boise’s VA stand on staff vaccines?
At the Boise VA Medical Center, around 70% of all staffers have been fully vaccinated, according to Josh Callihan, public affairs officer. He said the Boise VA has mainly been tracking the vaccination rate for all employees, so as of Tuesday afternoon, administrators were unsure how many Title 38 employees had received their COVID-19 immunization.
The Boise VA and surrounding outpatient clinics have 1,654 employees, including 637 in the Title 38 category. Podiatrists and optometrists are some of the other health care professionals who fall under Title 38.
“The Boise VA Medical Center is actively working to ensure VHA Directive 1193 (Monday’s mandate) is successfully implemented at the Boise VA Medical Center and its surrounding outpatient clinics; while also respecting the religious rights and health issues that may make an employee exempt from this mandate,” Callihan said in a statement to the Statesman.
All VA employees can receive their vaccine at no personal expense at any of its facilities.
The directive gives VA health care personnel eight weeks to be fully vaccinated. The VA’s mandate is a “necessary step to keep the veterans it serves safe,” the department said in its announcement.
“We’re mandating vaccines for Title 38 employees because it’s the best way to keep veterans safe, especially as the delta variant spreads across the country,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough in a news release.
A day after news of the VA vaccine mandate, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a new guideline on masks. The CDC now recommends that people wear masks, regardless of vaccination status, in areas of “substantial and high transmission,” and also says that students and educators returning to K-12 schools soon should wear face coverings.
According to the CDC’s county-level data, Ada and Canyon counties are among those areas with substantial or high rates of coronavirus spread. Idaho health officials reported over 600 new COVID-19 cases and five new deaths on Monday, a tally that includes the weekend.