Religious exemptions against COVID-19 vaccine mandate end Monday for health care workers in NYS


A syringe is prepared with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic at the Reading Area Community College in Reading, Pa., Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Health care workers granted religious exemptions to New York State’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate have until Monday to get their first dose, or risk losing their jobs.

The New York State Department of Health sent notice to health care providers across the state Monday, saying employees must have “documentation of either a first dose COVID-19 vaccination or a valid medical exemption” to continue working unvaccinated.

UR Medicine told employees exceptions could be made for remote workers, but not for those who work in “direct clinical roles.” Rochester Regional Health did not return a request for comment.

When the mandate was first issued, 17 healthcare professionals filed a lawsuit against the state because it did not include the option of a religious exemption. A federal judge in Utica ruled in favor of the mandate last month.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

URMC statement

Yesterday, the State Department of Health informed all New York hospitals and nursing facilities that employees previously granted religious exemptions to the state’s vaccine mandate would need to receive a first-dose of COVID vaccine or valid medical exemption by November 22 to continue working. Facilities are required to have a process for providing reasonable accommodations to employees with religious exemptions who are able to work outside the “covered entity.”

Today UR Medicine emailed all employees who have been working under religious exemptions since the state mandate took effect Sept. 27. Some work in remote locations where the exemption can be accommodated, some work in direct clinical roles where accommodation is not possible, and some work in roles where potential accommodation is being evaluated. The letters encouraged employees to consider being vaccinated before next Monday, at on-site clinics being offered this week or elsewhere in the community.

We are hopeful that a large number of employees now working under a religious exemption will choose to accept the vaccines that have been proven safe and effective in more than 20,000 colleagues at UR Medicine and hundreds of millions of people worldwide.


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