Governor Kate Brown directed the Oregon Health Authority to create a new rule requiring health care professionals to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo weekly COVID-19 testing. This will overturn a statute which prohibits hospitals from mandating vaccination of their employees.
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Currently, around 70% of health care workers have initiated vaccination.
The rule will be implemented on September 30 to allow health care workers time to get vaccinated fully, and to give employers time to implement the logistics of testing. Brown said:
“The more contagious Delta variant has changed everything. This new safety measure is necessary to stop Delta from causing severe illness among our first line of defense: our doctors, nurses, medical students, and frontline health care workers. Protecting our frontline health care workers through vaccination will also enhance the safety of the patients in their care. Severe illness from COVID-19 is now largely preventable, and vaccination is clearly our best defense. Vaccination and weekly testing ensure Oregonians can safely access health care and employees can go to work in an environment that maximizes health and safety measures for COVID-19.”
Brown intends to address the statute with stakeholders and legislators in the upcoming 2022 legislative session.
Becky Hultberg, president and CEO of the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems (OAHHS), praised the rule.
“Throughout the pandemic, Oregon’s hospitals have been committed to safeguarding the health of our patients, visitors and workers. We support today’s actions by Gov. Brown, which will require health care workers in Oregon to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or be tested regularly for the virus. With these additional tools we can better respond to this evolving pandemic and provide the safest possible environment for those who depend on us.”
Scott Palmer, director of communication at the Oregon Nurses Association (ONA), said:
“This is a reasonable and sensible approach which respects the individual choices of health care workers while also protecting public health. ONA believes COVID-19 vaccinations are critical to protecting our members, our patients, our families and our communities and we urge all Oregonians who can get vaccinated to do so now.”