New York state removes religious exemption from COVID-19 vaccine mandate

New York state's public health and health planning council approved emergency regulations Aug. 26 requiring that hospital workers be vaccinated for COVID-19, while removing religious exemptions, the state health department confirmed to Becker's.

On Aug. 16, New York state announced a requirement that staff at hospitals, nursing homes and other long-term care facilities get their first COVID-19 vaccine dose by Sept. 27, with limited exceptions for workers with religious or medical reasons. 

Once filed, the newly approved emergency regulations will supersede this previously announced requirement for hospital and nursing home workers, according to a state health department statement. It will not include a religious exemption from the vaccination requirement. 

The requirement approved by the public health and health planning council applies to hospitals, nursing homes, diagnostic and treatment centers, adult care facilities, certified home health agencies, hospices, long-term home health care programs, AIDS home care programs, licensed home care service agencies and limited licensed home care service agencies.

The state health department said these institutions are tasked with developing a plan for implementation of the mandate and any actions it will take regarding noncompliant employees. This could include firing noncompliant workers.

Healthcare workers at hospitals and nursing homes must still receive their first vaccine dose by Sept. 27. Workers at additional entities covered by the mandate, including diagnostic and treatment centers, home health agencies, long-term home health care programs, school-based clinics and hospice care programs, must have at least one dose by Oct. 7.

"We look forward to continuing to work with our healthcare provider partners to achieve the goal of vaccinating all New Yorkers against COVID-19, including those dedicated staff responsible for caring for our sick and vulnerable," the state health department said.

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