State looks to end Covid vaccine mandate for healthcare workers

Published: May. 30, 2023 at 5:30 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - A controversial vaccine mandate for healthcare workers is in the process of being repealed by the New York State Department of Health.

As the federal government ends the COVID-19 emergency, the state is set to rescind the COVID-19 vaccine requirement for healthcare workers.

In the meantime, the state says it won’t enforce the mandate.

It began under then-Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2021. Some north country healthcare workers argued the vaccine was too new and they shouldn’t have to choose between their livelihoods or the shot.

The other concern was that it would drive people out of the healthcare profession.

At some hospitals, it did.

In total, Samaritan Medical Center almost 90 of its employees resigned for not complying with vaccine requirements.

And at the end of September 2021, Lewis County Health System CEO Jerry Cayer announced it would close its maternity unit.

More than 50 people ended up resigning from Lewis County Health System because of the mandate.

Now Cayer says he’s waiting for additional federal and state guidance but is looking forward to welcoming those who want to re-enter the healthcare workforce.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Samaritan Medical Center wrote the hospital is still waiting on state guidance before changing its policy, but went on to say, “If the mandate is lifted we are hopeful that the small number of caregivers that left Samaritan due to COVID-19 vaccine mandate will decide to apply and perhaps return to our health system to provide care to their community.”

The DOH says the repeal is awaiting approval by the Public Health and Health Planning Council.