California's vaccination mandate: Early results

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While some healthcare workers remained unvaccinated as California's COVID-19 vaccination mandate took effect Sept. 30, health systems reported that many have complied, according to The New York Times.

California issued an order Aug. 5 requiring workers in healthcare to be vaccinated. It applies to those who work in indoor healthcare settings, including hospitals, where care is provided to patients, or patients have access. Workers who do not qualify for a medical or religious exemption needed to receive their first dose of a one-dose regimen or their second dose of a two-dose regimen by Sept. 30.

Unvaccinated exempt workers must meet testing and safety requirements.

Since state officials issued the order, several health systems have reported hundreds or thousands more workers getting vaccinated, according to the Times.

"Mandates are working," John Swartzberg, MD, a physician and professor at the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley, told the newspaper. "If you define 'working' by the percentage of people getting vaccinated and not leaving their jobs in droves."

Sacramento-based Sutter Health, which announced its vaccination policy Aug. 4, before the state's mandate became official, reported a 98 percent compliance rate the afternoon of Sept. 30. As of that time, 92 percent of Sutter employees and 97 percent of system-affiliated providers were vaccinated, representing more than 55,000 healthcare professionals, according to William Isenberg, MD, PhD, chief quality and safety officer for Sutter.

"Vaccination against COVID-19 remains critical for the protection of our healthcare workers, their loved ones and the communities they have tirelessly cared for, and we strongly encourage those who can be vaccinated to do so as soon as they are able," Dr. Isenberg told Becker's. "Knowing that the vast majority of our caregivers are vaccinated against COVID-19 is a welcome relief to those fighting on the front lines, and we hope those who aren't yet vaccinated will follow their lead in supporting the safety of our shared communities."

Other hospitals and health systems in California have seen vaccination rates above 90 percent, too.

San Diego-based Scripps Health reported a vaccination rate of 93.74 percent among its 16,508 employees as of Sept. 30. The compliance rate among affiliated physicians was 99 percent. 

Still, there has been resistance to getting the vaccine.

Some hospitals reported hundreds of exemption applications, according to the Times, and a spokesperson for Enloe Medical Center in rural Chico, Calif., told the newspaper this week that about 88 percent of its staff there was inoculated.

California's mandate took full effect days after the mandate in New York state did on Sept. 27. The federal government is also requiring mandates of more than 17 million healthcare workers at Medicare- and Medicaid-participating hospitals and other healthcare settings. 

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