With Pfizer’s recent vaccine rollout and Moderna’s receiving endorsement from the FDA this week, tens of thousands of federal workers can expect to be among the first in line for inoculation against COVID-19.
The Indian Health Service (IHS) committed itself to vaccinating its entire health care staff of 44,000 employees, but for now, other agencies and facilities are exercising some discretion to prioritize who receives the first of two doses of the vaccine.
Also committing itself to vaccinating 44,000 employees this week is the Defense Department, which will also focus its efforts on giving health care workers the treatment first. Those who work closely with patients are top priority, followed by emergency responders and public security personnel. Ultimately, the Defense Department is responsible for overseeing the vaccination of millions of active-duty personnel, civilian workers, at-risk dependents, and defense contractors.
The Veterans Affairs Department said its inoculation program would begin this week with 73,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, followed up later by 128,000 doses of Moderna’s. While these will only cover a small portion of the VA’s 400,000 employees and nearly 8 million veterans receiving care, the VA intends to make sure the remaining employees and veterans eventually receive the vaccine.
Currently, there is no mandate for federal employees to take the COVID-19 vaccine when it’s offered to them. Regardless, federal employers such as IHS and the Defense Department are deploying messaging campaigns to encourage people who can take it to do so. Part of that strategy is to have high-ranking government officials and elected leaders, like Vice President Mike Pence, to be publicly vaccinated.
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