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NY COVID19 Vaccine Mandate Deadline Leads to Hundreds of Healthcare Worker Suspensions

Last month, the New York State Department of Health issued an order that required all health care workers in the state to be vaccinated against Covid-19 by September 27. Any employee of a state-run health care facility who does not receive at least one vaccination dose by the end of the day Monday, barring approved exemptions, “will be immediately suspended,” according to the Department of Health.

That deadline has now passed, and hundreds of unvaccinated health care workers across New York were suspended Tuesday and could soon lose their jobs entirely as the state’s Covid-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers went into effect overnight. As of Monday evening, 92% of hospital staff, 92% of nursing home staff, and 89% of adult care facility staff had at least one vaccine dose, Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office said.

Anti-vaccine rally protesters hold signs outside of Houston Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas, on June 26, 2021. – A spokesperson for Houston Methodist Hospital said on June 23, 153 employees either resign or were fired for refusing to be vaccinated. (Photo by Mark Felix / AFP) (Photo by MARK FELIX/AFP /AFP via Getty Images)

The vaccination rates increased considerably over the last four weeks as the state crept closer to the vaccine deadline, Gov. Hochul said.

New York’s Covid vaccine mandates represent a preview of what may be ahead for the rest of the country, as President Joe Biden has similarly imposed vaccine or testing requirements on federal workers, large employers, and health care staff, which could apply to as many as 100 million Americans. “We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us,” President Biden said earlier this month.

States have long required hospital employees to be vaccinated against other diseases to better protect staff and patients from outbreaks. In New York, the vast majority of health care workers have been vaccinated against Covid-19, but the requirement could still lead to a significant number of workers unable to work — shortages that could, ironically, lead to worse medical care for patients with the illness. The state is facing similar potential worker shortages because of its vaccine mandates in schools and in courts.

 

To address these potential shortages, Gov. Hochul signed an executive order Monday night that expands the available health care workforce and allows additional workers to administer Covid-19 testing and vaccinations. In particular, the order allows health care workers from other states and countries to practice in New York and waives the re-registration fees to speed up the process. “The only way we can move past this pandemic is to ensure that everyone eligible is vaccinated, and that includes those who are taking care of our vulnerable family members and loved ones,” Gov. Hochul said in a statement.

 

New York City Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi said Monday he did not expect a major impact on patient care, though he acknowledged there could be some staffing issues.

 

“I do expect that some places where more health care workers remain to be vaccinated may have to make some operational adjustments particularly to ensure that staffing is most important, that ICU or operating rooms are adequately staffed,” Chokshi said.



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