HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — The Department of Veteran Affairs is now the first major federal agency requiring its health care workers to be vaccinated.

As more hospitals consider the same, many are concerned about the legality of vaccination mandates.

The VA’s decision to mandate vaccines comes after almost 60 medical organizations called on health care facilities to require workers to get vaccinated. 

“I think these facilities are balancing risk and they’re deciding that it’s riskier not to have everybody vaccinated than it is to be involved in a lawsuit,” said South Carolina Sen. Stephen Goldfinch.

Goldfinch said the South Carolina Senate passed a number of clauses this year dealing with banning mandatory vaccines.

“The common thread that we always saw in the drafting of those provisos was that we exempted healthcare facilities,” he said.

As of Monday, all VA health care workers have eight weeks to get the COVID-19 vaccination. According to Goldfinch, those who want to keep their job will likely have to comply.

“If there’s ever a successful lawsuit, it would only be because somebody that was mandated to take the vaccine had a bad reaction from it,” he said.

Even though the vaccine has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration as emergency-use, as opposed to fully approved, he said federal law won’t necessarily help prevent mandates in health care.

“Federal law doesn’t preclude anybody from mandating any kind of vaccines at all, whether it be nursing, hospital, health care facility, or not, as long as there are opt outs,” he said.

Overall, Goldfinch said it all comes down to facilities wanting to keep patients and staff safe.

“You don’t have to take the vaccine,” he said. “But if you want to maintain your job as a nurse, or a doctor, or whatever, at a hospital or nursing center, I’m afraid you’re gonna have to take a vaccine.”