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COVID Vaccination Mandates Increase Compliance


On August 5th the State of California issued an order requiring workers in healthcare facilities including hospitals and long-term care homes to receive an approved vaccination against COVID unless in possession of medical or religious exemption. 


The response to the order has encouraged vaccine-hesitant healthcare workers to receive protection.  Sutter Health based in Sacramento reported a 98 percent compliance rate on September 30th.  Approximately 92 percent of all employees and 97 percent of providers were vaccinated comprising a group of 55,000. Dr. William Isenberg, chief quality and safety officer for Sutter Health stated, “Vaccine against COVID-19 is critical to protect healthcare workers, their loved ones and communities they care for and we strongly encourage those who can be vaccinated to do so as soon as possible.”


Dr. John Swartzberg of the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley stated, “Mandates are working, if you define this by the percentage of people getting vaccinated and not leaving their jobs.” The California mandate is similar to the New York State requirement issued on September 22nd.  The Administration is requiring 17 million healthcare workers and facilities receiving Medicare or Medicaid support to be vaccinated.


Notwithstanding the scientific justification for vaccination with undeniable proof of effectiveness and safety, a number of healthcare providers have applied for medical, religious and conscientious exceptions from vaccination.  Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of religion.  Accordingly accommodation is required for employees that have sincere religious objections to vaccination.  Generally the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has a broad interpretation of ‘religious belief’.  This may include moral or ethical views that are held personally with the strength of traditional religious values. The EEOC has established criteria to determine whether an employee holds sincere views that would support a decision to reject vaccination against COVID.


Data assembled to date does not indicate any appreciable number of resignations from healthcare facilities among employees declining to be vaccinated.  Inconvenience and expense associated with proscribed regular testing and peer pressure should encourage compliance. Regrettably any reduction in workforce especially in critical areas of hospital operation will intensify the pressure on existing workers who are dealing with incident and unnecessary cases since more than 95 percent of admissions are in previously non-vaccinated patients.