Unvaccinated healthcare workers could lose jobs over new vaccine mandate

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The New York Department of Health has eliminated the religious exemption for healthcare workers who don’t want to get vaccinated. One local healthcare worker believes her whole livelihood would be affected by the new rule.

As a single mom, Vivian Parsons says her career in healthcare could be over soon.

“If I’m going to be terminated, let me be terminated based on any other reason that my employer sees fit,” said Parsons.

Parsons works at long term care facility in the Capital Region. The NYSDOH unanimously voted and set a deadline that all hospitals and nursing homes must require their employees to be fully-vaccinated against COVID-19, with the first dose received by September 27.

All other health-care facilities covered in the provision — including diagnostic and treatment centers, home health agencies, long-term home health care programs, school-based clinics and hospice care programs — must have workers vaccinated by October 7. 

While doing so they also removed the religious exemption. Parsons says she chooses to keep her faith.

“No one should have to justify to anyone why they don’t want a medication injected into your body when you believe in something differently,” she said.

Steven Hanks, the chief clinical officer for St. Peter’s Health Partners, says this isn’t the first time a debate happened over religious exemptions and immunizations.

“They mandated the measles vaccination as well as the absence of any religious exemptions. They felt that the public health need outweighed the religious rights,” said Hanks.

“I’m sorry; that is unacceptable because we all know the major staffing issues every nursing home is having across the state,” said Parsons.

Hanks says it’s to early to tell how many healthcare workers they could lose to this mandate, but he believes it won’t lead to a staffing crisis.  

The NYSDOH said these healthcare institutions are in charge of developing a plan for implementation of the mandate and any actions it will take regarding noncompliant employees.

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