WASHINGTON (WRIC) — The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is expanding its COVID-19 vaccine mandate among Veterans Health Administration (VHA) employees, effective Aug. 13.

VA Secretary Denis McDonough announced the change on Thursday, to apply to most VHA employees and volunteers and contractors who work in or visit VHA facilities, or otherwise meet with VA patients and healthcare workers as part of their duties.

On July 26, the VA became the first major federal agency to require health care workers to get COVID-19 vaccines. The mandate specified that certain health care personnel, such as physicians, dentists, podiatrists, optometrists, registered nurses and physician assistants would have eight weeks to get vaccinated.

According to a Thursday release, under the expanded mandate, employees who will need to be vaccinated include Hybrid Title 38 and Title 5 VA health care personnel, such as psychologists, pharmacists, social workers, nursing assistants, physical therapists, respiratory therapists, peer specialists, medical support assistants, engineers, housekeepers and other clinical, administrative and infrastructure support employees who come into contact with VA patients and healthcare workers.

“We’re now including most VHA employees and volunteers and contractors in the vaccine mandate because it remains the best way to keep Veterans safe, especially as the Delta variant spreads across the country,” Secretary McDonough said. “This pandemic is not over and VA must do everything in our power to protect veterans from COVID-19. With this expanded mandate, we can once again make — and keep — that fundamental promise.”

As with the previous mandate, directive affected employees will have eight weeks to provide proof of vaccination to their local VHA Occupational Health Office.

According to a release, all Department of Veterans Affairs employees are eligible to be vaccinated at no personal expense at any VA facilities. Employees that show proof of vaccination will receive four hours of paid administrative leave.