The Department of Justice has announced that federal law does not bar private businesses or public agencies from mandating COVID-19 vaccines.

This announcement comes just hours after the Department of Veterans Affairs became the first federal agency to require some of its employees to be vaccinated.

Under emergency use authorization by section 564 of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, businesses are not prohibited from requiring vaccines.

In a memorandum opinion, issued by the deputy counsel to the president, the DOJ laid out legal requirements surrounding newly authorized vaccines: “In light of these developments, you have asked whether the ‘option to accept or refuse’ condition in section 564 prohibits entities from imposing such vaccination requirements while the only available vaccines for COVID-19 remain subject to EUAs. We conclude, consistent with FDA’s interpretation, that it does not. This language in section 564 specifies only that certain information be provided to potential vaccine recipients and does not prohibit entities from imposing vaccination requirements.”

The V.A.’s vaccine mandate will apply to physicians, dentists, nurses, physician assistants and other patient-facing health care workers at facilities across the U.S. V.A. employees have eight weeks to become fully vaccinated.

V.A. Secretary Denis McDonough said in a news release that this new rule is “the best way to keep Veterans safe.”

“Whenever a Veteran or V.A. employee sets foot in a V.A. facility, they deserve to know that we have done everything in our power to protect them from COVID-19,” he said.

Over 100,000 VA employees will be subject to this new mandate.

“I am doing this because it’s the best way to keep our veterans safe, full stop,” McDonough.

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