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State health leaders said federal vaccine mandate for hospital workers could make staffing shortages worse

Published: Jan. 13, 2022 at 10:55 PM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - The U.S. Supreme Court has stopped a vaccine requirement for employees at large businesses, but not healthcare workers.

Officials with ADPH said hospital staffing is the largest problem Alabama is facing during the Omicron surge, and if these new mandates cause more employees to quit, it will likely just get worse.

State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said Alabama hospitals are really struggling with staffing shortages, and all of the state’s traveling nurses are already gone. He said the reason for the staffing issues is the virus itself. He said most hospitals have staff out from being infected or being a close contact.

Harris said it is hard to tell if the new federal vaccine mandate will cause hospital workers to quit, but that is not what they’ve seen in other states around the country.

“I think we just have to wait and see how that affects people in Alabama,” Harris said. “We know from around the country that other health systems have had mandates for their employees and they really haven’t caused other people to leave the workforce.”

Harris said ADPH does not have data on how many of Alabama hospital workers are already vaccinated, but the mandate is expected to impact 10.4 million workers nationwide. The mandate does have religious and medical exemptions for employees and Dr. Don Williamson with the Alabama Hospital Association said that could help prevent more shortages.

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