New York state health officials announced that the state's COVID vaccine booster mandate for healthcare workers will not be enforced, citing potential staffing shortages should workers be forced out of their job for refusing to get boosted.
"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," State Health Commissioner Mary Bassett said in a statement Friday.
The announcement comes ahead of New York Gov. Kathy Hochul's requirement issued last month mandating that healthcare workers be boosted against the coronavirus by Feb. 21.
Bassett said in her statement that the state would endure "substantial staffing issues" should the mandate be enforced but noted that officials will reassess measures to increase booster rates in three months.
"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," she said. "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."
The state's efforts to increase the booster vaccination rate of healthcare workers will include bringing boosters directly to healthcare settings.
Among healthcare staff in the state, 95% of hospice workers, and 84% of hospital workers are boosted. But other areas, such as nursing home staff at 51% and adult care facilities at 63 percent, have much lower booster rates.
Healthcare workers in the state will still have to adhere to the original vaccine mandate.