A New York State Department of Health board voted unanimously Thursday to implement emergency authorization of a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all health care workers in the state, while also removing a planned religious exemption as an alternative to vaccination.
Thursday’s meeting of the Public Health and Health Planning Council consisted of a discussion and subsequent formal adoption of a regulation first announced by then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week.
The mandate approved by the council also removed a planned exemption that would have allowed workers to avoid vaccination based on religious considerations. Any religious exemptions previously granted are no longer valid and facilities will not be allowed to include religious exemptions at all, said Vanessa Murphy, a DOH attorney.
“We’re not constitutionally required to provide a religious exemption,” Murphy said. “You see that with the Measles and the Mumps requirement for health care workers.”
Hospitals and nursing homes must require their employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with the first dose for current personnel received by Sept. 27.
All other health-care facilities covered in the provision — including diagnostic and treatment centers, home health agencies, long-term home health care programs, school-based clinics, and hospice care programs — must have personnel vaccinated by Oct. 7.