The deadline set by state authorities in New York for unvaccinated health care workers to receive at least their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine expired Monday, Sept. 27.
By not getting vaccinated, thousands of healthcare workers risk losing their jobs.
New York currently has one of the strictest vaccine mandates in the country that does not include, for example, exemptions for those who do not want to receive the shot for religious reasons, which is why it has already been challenged in court.
By Wednesday, Sept. 22, some 70,000 hospital workers out of the 450,000 registered in New York were unvaccinated, according to figures published in the press.
On July 28, then-Governor Andrew Cuomo established mandatory vaccination as a condition of employment for healthcare workers, teachers and support staff. The measure was necessary to address the spread of the coronavirus driven by the COVID-19 Delta variant.
"Our health heroes led the battle against the virus and now we need them to lead the battle between the variant and the vaccine," said Cuomo, who also encouraged mandatory vaccination of school teachers and encouraged private businesses to make vaccination a requirement for admitting customers to their premises.
The policy has been upheld by New York's new governor, Kathy C. Hochul, who warned on Friday, Sept. 24, that she may hire temporary workers from the Philippines or Ireland to fill holes left by unvaccinated workers.
Deborah Conrad, a health aide who works in the western region of the state, told the New York Times that her reluctance is in response to vaccine side effects she claims to have seen that are at odds with the scientific consensus.
"It's not that I don't want to keep doing my job. It's that I'm not allowed to keep doing my job," Conrad said.
Some health care workers reject the mandate as violating their individual freedoms, while others argue that because they have already been infected with the coronavirus, meaning they already have natural immunity to the virus. It should be noted that experts have warned that this type of protection is insufficient.
The New York Department of Labor issued a document warning that workers who lose their jobs because they do not want to be vaccinated will not be eligible for unemployment insurance unless they have a doctor's order to back them up.