Public/Global Health

CDC director: Potential loss of unvaccinated health care workers ‘creates a challenge’

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky on Monday said she backed vaccine mandates for health care workers, but admitted that resulting staff shortages could present a challenge.

“We have seen that these vaccine mandates get more people vaccinated,” Walensky said in an appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” adding that she was “enthusiastic” about the increased push for vaccinations.

New York’s deadline for health care workers to be vaccinated in the state will take effect on Monday. 

As Walensky praises the mandate, a number of health care workers continue to resist getting the shot. 

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) has said she may tap the National Guard and put out a call to out-of-state health care workers to fill the roles of the unvaccinated people who could be out of work if they miss Monday’s vaccine deadline, Reuters said.

“It absolutely creates a challenge,” Walensky said on GMA. “What I would say is [we need] to do some work, to educate these health care workers, to meet them where they are, to understand where their hesitancy is so we can get them vaccinated and get them back to work.”

The governor’s office said that about 16 percent of New York state’s medical workers, or 72,000 people, remained unvaccinated. 

Walensky recently defended her decision to include high-risk groups, including health care workers, in guidance surrounding who is eligible for a third-dose booster shot. 

Unlike the decision to make people age 65 and older along with others with high-risk conditions eligible for the booster shot, Walensky described the decision for people at higher risk because of where they live or work as more of a “close call.”

“Because of all the evidence we reviewed both at the FDA [Food and Drug Administration] and at the CDC, I felt it was appropriate for those people to also be eligible for boosters,” she said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday.

Tags CDC COVID-19 frontline workers Health care industry Kathy Hochul New York Rochelle Walensky vaccination rate vaccine mandate

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