Now that the Pfizer vaccine has secured FDA approval, a new wave of vaccine requirements is rolling out across the country to battle the virulent Delta variant. If you’re an unvaccinated healthcare worker in Washington or Oregon, you’ll soon need to get your shot. New government mandates in both states will require all healthcare workers to be fully vaccinated by October 18. Healthcare workers who haven’t been fully vaccinated by October 18 will not be able to work until they’ve gotten their COVID-19 immunizations up to date.
Many people have cited the lack of FDA approval when explaining their hesitation to get the COVID-19 vaccine. However, because only the two-dose Pfizer vaccine has received FDA approval so far, healthcare workers who prefer that option need to start their vaccine courses as soon as possible to meet the upcoming deadline.
The Delta variant has taken a heavy toll, with its worst effects primarily impacting the unvaccinated. This new COVID-19 variant has surged through the American population in recent months, spiking hospitalizations and deaths higher than they’ve been since the release of the vaccine. With colder weather just around the corner and the holiday season fast approaching, the effects of the Delta variant could continue to get worse for those who remain unvaccinated.
The virulent circulation of the Delta variant is a large part of why these vaccine requirements are rolling out now. More than twice as contagious as previous variants, Delta may also cause more severe symptoms. Increasing vaccinations across the board, but especially for healthcare workers, is crucial to avoiding a tragic new wave this coming winter.
With the deadline fast approaching, many people in the healthcare field have many questions about what to expect this fall. Here’s what healthcare workers and providers should know about the October 18 vaccination deadline.
A person is fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose of a two-shot vaccine course or two weeks after their first shot of a single dose vaccine. The two-week window afterward allows the body to build up antibodies, which are critical to the vaccine’s effectiveness. This means that people who need to be fully vaccinated by October 18 should start as soon as possible to meet that deadline.
The FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine has changed nothing about the efficacy or safety of the vaccine itself. However, this new stamp of approval will hopefully instill a new wave of confidence in those still hesitating to get their shot.
Medical and religious exemptions still exist for healthcare workers who don’t want the vaccine. However, these exemptions may still create barriers for healthcare workers in certain fields or positions. In places where vaccines are required, people who have claimed an exemption may not be eligible to work. Personal or philosophical objections do not qualify under the current exemptions.
Whether or not employers must fire their employees who refuse to get vaccinated is still unclear. The current rule claims that unvaccinated healthcare workers without a medical or religious exemption “cannot be employed.” Employers might have the option to put non-compliant employees on leave. However, the impact on healthcare workers who refuse the vaccine remains to be seen.
As they currently stand, Washington and Oregon’s vaccine mandates will require healthcare workers without a valid exemption to get a vaccine or stop working. Many individual healthcare providers, such as Kaiser Permanente, Legacy Health, and Peacehealth, have already required their employees to be fully vaccinated. Kaiser’s goal is to have all employees and physicians vaccinated by September 30.
As a leader in medical staffing in the Pacific Northwest, we’re doing everything we can to offer guidance and support to our employees in healthcare. We continue to collect proof of vaccination information to make the hiring process smoother for local healthcare providers. Med-X continues to accept religious and medical exemptions to vaccination, but as more providers expand their vaccine requirements, it becomes more complicated to guarantee placement for unvaccinated employees. It’s also possible that the vaccine mandates may be updated or revised in the future.
In such a rapidly-changing environment, keeping track of the mandates which might impact your ability to work can be challenging and stressful. At Med-X, we make sure to stay ahead of all of the new requirements for healthcare workers so that our employees can protect themselves, their patients, and their ability to work. For more information on how we’re connecting qualified medical staff with the providers who need them, contact Med-X today at 503.922.1393 or firstname.lastname@example.org.