COVID Omicron NY: Booster mandate delayed for healthcare workers

NEW YORK (WABC) -- New York will not enforce its mandate requiring health care workers to get COVID-19 boosters in light of concerns about staffing shortages, state health officials said Friday.

Gov. Kathy Hochul pointed to a troubling rise in breakthrough infections when she announced the mandate in January. The Democrat's administration set a deadline of Feb. 21.

But state health commissioner Mary Bassett said Friday that the decision to drop enforcement of the mandate reflects the reality that booster rates remain far below 100% in nursing homes and hospitals.

"While we are making progress with 75% of staff received or are willing to receive their booster, the reality is that not enough healthcare workers will be boosted by next week's requirement in order to avoid substantial staffing issues in our already overstressed healthcare system," State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said in a statement on Friday. "That is why we are announcing additional efforts to work closely with healthcare facilities and ensure that our healthcare workforce is up to date on their doses."

Nursing homes and hospitals in New York have vaccinated nearly all employees, but health experts worry that booster rates are too low to protect against future surges as a vaccination's efficacy wanes over time.

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COVID-19 vaccine booster shots provide 90% protection against hospitalization, according to data published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month.

Officials say in three months, the state will reassess whether additional steps will be needed to increase booster uptake among healthcare workers.

In three months, the state will reassess whether additional steps will be needed to increase booster uptake among healthcare workers, officials said.

While the new mandate will not be enforced, the original vaccination requirement for healthcare workers remains in effect.

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"The vaccine and booster are critical tools to keep both healthcare workers and their patients safe, and we continue to urge everyone to get vaccinated and receive a booster dose when eligible," Bassett said.

According to the state, they will work closely with hospitals to increase the booster rate among workers.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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