The Department of Veterans Affairs is giving all its frontline health care workers two months to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or risk losing their jobs, the department announced Monday in a press release.

“I am doing this because it’s the best way to keep our veterans safe, full stop,” VA Secretary Denis McDonough told the New York Times.

The press release said four VA employees have died from COVID-19 in recent weeks and that all were unvaccinated.

The department is the first federal agency to require a portion of its workforce to get vaccinated, but some cities and states are starting to add the requirement for public sector employees. Military services may make the vaccine mandatory in the fall, when it is expected that the Food and Drug Administration will clear the vaccines for non-emergency use.

The Justice Department’s general counsel found Monday that it is not against federal law for government agencies and private businesses to require employees to get vaccinated, even while the shots are authorized just for emergency use, CNN reported.

Air Force photo by Kisha Johnson