What Do Health Care Systems and Workers Say About Plan to Demand Vaccines or Testing?

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As a man of science who's on the front lines of the fight against the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Christian Ramers says the state's plans to require healthcare workers to prove they've gotten the vaccine or face weekly tests makes sense theoretically and helps them to live up to their oath to do no harm.

“Let’s get everybody vaccinated so that we don't we don't have our vulnerable patients getting COVID from their providers,” Ramers told NBC 7 on Monday.

Ramers, an infectious disease specialist with the Family Health Centers of San Diego, also understands that theory oftentimes collides with the reality of employees, at any healthcare system, who are vaccine-hesitant.

“Maybe it's somebody who has a history of anaphylaxis and they were scared about that," Ramers said. "Maybe it's somebody who was trying to get pregnant and has been vulnerable to these rumors about vaccines causing infertility, which are completely untrue."

According to UC San Diego Health, 90% of their employees are vaccinated. Though their reasons vary, some declined because of religious reasons or postponed because of pregnancy.

At Scripps, officials said surveys show roughly 85% of their staff is vaccinated.

“Now that these new regulations are more specific, we will repeat the survey and require proof of vaccination," a Scripps representative told NBC 7 on Monday. "We’re working to pull together our plan in response. For that reason, we are not in a position to discuss this further.”

At Sharp HealthCare, officials said that more than 80% of employees of their workers are vaccinated. A representative issued the following statement:

“[Our] medical facilities continue to follow [California Department of Health] and Cal/OSHA guidance regarding masking, regardless of vaccination status. That means all staff members, whether vaccinated or not, must wear an approved face covering. In our nonmedical buildings, such as our corporate office, vaccinated employees do not need to wear a mask and must follow physical distancing guidelines, including while eating. Regarding the state’s announced requirements today, we will review the details when CDPH releases its All Facilities Letter for hospitals. In the meantime, we will do what is best to keep our patients, staff and visitors safe, and we will review the guidelines and implement them as appropriate."

And at Palomar Health, where officials said there’s a 70% vaccination rate, a spokesperson noted, “All staff working in patient areas, regardless of vaccination status, must wear a mask at all times. The only thing the new mandate would change is testing. We test every admitted patient, so we have the infrastructure in place to test our unvaccinated employees, as mandated by law.

“I’m really caught between a rock and a hard place on this,” Dr. Monica Perlman told NBC 7.

While Perlmanbelieves the vaccine is the best way healthcare workers can live up to their oath of doing no harm, she wonders what harm studies could show, if any, down the road.

“We don’t have any long-term data for vaccination," Perlman said. "And we can’t basically say it’s not going to hurt you, because we don’t have the five-year data."

While accommodations for medical and religious reasons are considered, the United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care, which represents nurses at Kaiser Permanente and Sharp Health, issued a statement that reads, in part:

"This is a forward-thinking order from Governor Newsom, which will save lives by protecting patients and caregivers both. Our nurses and health care professionals are still reeling from the last year and a half of pandemic...."

Kaiser Permanente officials had similar praise as well. In a statement, they wrote:

“Kaiser Permanente supports Gov. Gavin Newsom’s strong and timely action today to require that all state and healthcare workers show proof of vaccination or be tested regularly. To ensure we have all necessary information to maintain a safe workplace, we are moving to require all Kaiser Permanente employees to verify their vaccination status. This is an important step in helping to increase vaccination for health care and state workers …”

Newsom said the policy will go into effect Aug. 2 for state workers and Aug. 9 for healthcare workers. Health facilities will be required to be in full compliance by Aug. 23.

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