Vaccine Deadline

September 28, 2021
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Heroes In The Hot Seat

Some of our nation's largest states are handing down vaccine mandates for those closest to COVID-19:
healthcare workers.

Backstory

  • Nearly half of U.S. states mandate certain vaccines for healthcare workers.
  • Why This Matters: High stakes. Non-compliance risks not only loss of employment, but staff shortages causing hospitals & communities to lose experienced healthcare workers at a critical time.
  • “Vaccinate or terminate” mandates started this week, with New York’s deadline on Monday and several states/territories (California, Colorado, D.C., Maine, Oregon, Rhode Island) following in next several days/weeks.
"They (patients) have a right to be treated by someone who will not make them get sicker. My job, number one in this state, is to keep people safe."

NY Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) on her plan to address potential staffing shortages due to the mandate. On Monday, she signed an emergency executive order that made it easier for out-of-state/out-of-country/retired medical personnel to work in NY. She also said the National Guard could be deployed to help. New York’s mandate is one of the most strict – not offering weekly testing or religious exemption (this is being legally challenged).

“It is my right as an American citizen to choose what goes into my body … if we the people don’t stand up now, we’re going to end up losing all freedom. And who knows what’s going to be next.”

A 29-year-old New York State nurse, speaking anonymously to The Washington Post. While vaccination rates for New York’s healthcare workers increased in the final days before the mandate (92%), thousands of workers remain unvaccinated; their fate and its impact remain unknown.

Is It Legal?

  • Legal precedent tends to support vaccine mandates.
  • States such as Rhode Island already mandate certain vaccines (such as measles) for healthcare workers.
  • How Is It Enforced? Healthcare workers do not show proof of vaccination to the state, but the state requires healthcare facilities to develop, issue and enforce vaccine requirements for employees.
  • At one point, New York tried to mandate flu vaccines – but that was rescinded due to legal challenge.

Important context: While vaccine mandates do exist, there is also precedent for healthcare workers to have options. For example, in some states, a nurse may show she has proof of a measles immunity by a reading of her titers – antibody measurements in her blood showing her level of immunity to measles. This option is not available for COVID-19 vaccine mandates – a challenge for some previously-infected healthcare workers who want to show proof of immunity. Meanwhile, some states are passing laws to prevent vaccine mandates of any kind – for healthcare workers or otherwise.

Good read: Facing deadline, more NY healthcare workers vaccinate

Great resource listing a variety of mandates.

Actual vaccine order by Cuomo in NY

List of immunizations for healthcare workers required by different states

by Jenna Lee,

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