New York on Friday rolled back on a Feb. 21 deadline that would require healthcare workers to get a COVID-19 booster shot or risk losing their jobs or salary, citing concerns about staffing shortages.
“The reality is that not enough healthcare workers will be boosted by next week’s requirement,” said Dr. Mary T. Bassett, the state’s health commissioner, adding that officials cannot immediately enforce the mandate because it could create “substantial staffing issues.”
“That is why we are announcing additional efforts to work closely with healthcare facilities and ensure that our healthcare workforce is up to date on their doses,” Bassett said.
The COVID-19 vaccine mandate will instead be reassessed in three months to see whether additional steps need to be taken to increase booster rates among the workforce, the New York State Department of Health said in a statement.
According to the latest data reported by state health facilities, about 75 percent of healthcare workers have received, or are willing to receive another dose.
“The vaccine and booster are critical tools to keep both healthcare workers and their patients safe, and we continue to urge everyone to get vaccinated and receive a booster dose when eligible,” Bassett said.
Health care industry leaders, including Greater New York Hospital Association President Kenneth Raske, had recently urged state officials to reassess the mandate, The Associated Press reported.
“The state has recently heard from numerous stakeholders about how enforcement of the booster mandate could exacerbate New York’s health care staffing shortage, which is the subject of a declared emergency,” Raske said in a statement.
New York’s decision to halt the COVID-19 booster shot mandate was also praised by other leaders as a smart move.
“Three days were not going to be enough time to get enough boosted staff members to serve the residents and patients we have to serve,” LeadingAge New York CEO Jim Clyne said.
An already existing mandate that requires health care workers to get vaccinated remains the same, with exemptions for those who have a medical reason for not being eligible to receive the shot.
Gov. Kathy Hochul announced an expansion to its COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers in January, adding booster shots to the list. New York became the first state nationwide to require the shots for the health sector.