BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — Another state-wide COVID mandate is on the horizon for healthcare workers.
The New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) says employees in the health care industry are required to get a booster shot by February 21st.
In December more than 500 healthcare employees in the Buffalo-Niagara region lost their jobs at area hospitals.
One week ago the New York State Department of Health issued a letter to leaders of hospitals, nursing care facilities, adult care facilities, home care and hospice state-wide.
The letter was to inform them that all employees, who are eligible for the COVID booster, must get their booster shot.
“As healthcare professionals, we have both a moral and a professional obligation to the best of our ability to keep our patients safe,” declared Dr. Thomas Russo, infections disease specialists, Jacobs School of Medicine, University at Buffalo.
Healthcare employees, who are not yet eligible for the booster, will be required to get the shot within 30-days of becoming eligible.
But like the first mandate, that required all health care workers be vaccinated or be terminated, some refused and walked away from their jobs.
“At this point, the my body — my choice rule should stick in,” explained Kathi McGowan. “It not like we just woke up and decided to be civil disobedient. We've done our research.”
McGowan of Hamburg is a physicians practice coordinator. She left her job at ECMC in Buffalo because she would not get vaccinated.
McGowan told me initially, due to her medical history and at the advice of her doctor, she didn't get the vaccine.
She said she also received a religious exemption, but later when Governor Kathy Hochul ended the religious exemption, McGowan still refused to get the shot.
“As for myself — I did draw the line and I decided I would not get any of the vaccines,” McGowan replied. “Also, my religious belief in putting any type of toxin or stem cells in her body.”
“You're an infectious disease expert. How do you respond to someone who is afraid — considering it chemical or a toxin that they are putting in their body?” Buckley asked Dr. Russo.
“At this point, all of our health care provides have already received their primary series — it's a bit mystifying why there is some reluctance to get a booster shot, which is going to significantly augment not only their personal protection from the development serve disease, hospitalization, infection, but would be an added measure to protect their patients,” replied Dr. Russo.
McGowan says she also had COVID previously and believes natural immunity needs to be considered.
“I’m concerned that medical professionals such as the people running these hospitals are not considering natural immunity as a weapon in the war against COVID,” remarked McGowan.
I posed that question to Dr. Russo, who says it provides some protection, but not necessarily enough against the Omicron variant.
“However, in individuals that have asymptomatic infections or mild infections — the degree and durability of that protection is unclear at this time, therefore the safest course — is to be certain about optimizing that protection — is to receive the booster shot,” responded Dr. Russo.
Importance of booster outlined by Dr. Russo:
- Omicron is somewhat resistant regarding immunity
- Previous vaccines waning
- Booster significantly reduces likelihood of being infected with Omicron
- Could prevent hospitalization for Omicron
- Immune compromised or 50-years and older, significantly decrease the likelihood to develop server infection
“Two shots against it does not get it done against Omicron,” explained Dr. Russo.
Dr. Russo says it is critical healthcare workers step up for a booster to protect themselves and patients from severe infection and help with staffing shortages.
“I really look at this as an obligation in terms of duty to keep our patients safe as possible,” Dr. Russo described.