Hawley, Norris oppose vaccine mandate for health workers, fearing it will cause staff shortages

Staff Reports Posted 9 September 2021 at 7:03 pm

Two local State Assembly members – Steve Hawley of Batavia and Michael Norris of Lockport – are among 42 members of the State Assembly who have signed on a letter to Gov. Kathy Hochul and Health Commissioner Zucker to reverse the decision to mandate vaccination of healthcare workers.

The Assembly members say that any public health benefit a mandate would provide would be outweighed by the detriment such a requirement would have on staffing levels within hospitals and health centers, as 20-25% of health workers within New York are unvaccinated.

Hawley asserts that rather than implementing this mandate and potentially losing nearly a quarter of the state’s healthcare staff, an option for frequent and regular testing for unvaccinated people should be offered and access to effective PPE such as N95 masks should be increased.

“Losing even a fraction of our medical personnel in this time of need would have a catastrophic effect on our efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, and to think we could lose a quarter or a fifth of our already-overburdened healthcare workers is incredibly troubling,” Hawley said in a news release.

Hawley also is concerned about how the mandate will affect people who either cannot be vaccinated due to their medical circumstances, and those who work remotely like coders and transcriptionists who do not come into contact with patients.

“We need to be pragmatic about how we fight this virus, and while I encourage anyone to get the Covid-19 vaccine and believe it’s safe and effective, forcing nurses, doctors and other health staff who have worked tirelessly throughout these last many months to choose between taking a vaccine or losing their jobs is not going to convince any skeptics that efforts to increase vaccine rates are well-intended,” Hawley said.