Latest Murphy vaccine mandate makes a bad healthcare worker shortage worse for New Jersey, O’Scanlon

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TRENTON, NJ – Senator Declan O’Scanlon challenged the wisdom of Governor Murphy for his executive order today requiring health care workers to be boosted in addition to fully vaccinated, warning the move could backfire.

“If some is good, more must be better … isn’t a way to make public health policy,” said O’Scanlon (R-13). “The Governor’s announcement will have a net negative impact on public health in many facilities already struggling with staff shortages, especially now that our case and hospital admission rates are plummeting. In many systems residents/patients face a more severe health threat from staff shortages than from exposure to doctors or nurses who have not yet been boosted. With case rates plummeting the fear of health workers themselves being out sick is waning as well.”

The announcement by the Governor today requires health care workers and those in high-risk settings like nursing homes and correctional facilities to get vaccinated. They will no longer be able to test out as an alternative to the shots and boosters.

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“We already have a healthcare worker shortage. Not having anyone to care for sick patients is much worse than the nominal risk of being exposed to someone who isn’t up to date with their shots,” O’Scanlon said.  “To the fair argument that in some systems with very high vaccination rates this move might not prompt more workers to leave but might reduce instances when employees are out with severe illness, I say fine, let those systems dictate their own policy and manage it. One-size-fits-all simply doesn’t work.

“Every week I hear from hospital and healthcare industry folks, and they are terrified of the consequences of the existing staff shortages. This one-size-fits-all mandate could easily have a net negative public health impact overall.  These are dice government shouldn’t be rolling. These decisions should be up to the health care systems themselves.

“In addition, as we now know vaccinated people can and are spreading the Omicron strain, eliminating testing might itself be a net negative on the likelihood of increasing transmission,” O’Scanlon added.

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Under Murphy’s Executive Order No. 283, unvaccinated health workers have until Jan. 27 to get their first shot and they must be fully vaccinated by Feb. 28.

Workers in congregate settings must have started the process by Feb. 16 and complete it by March 30.

“I am a big believer in vaccines and the value of the booster shots for most people, though for younger residents the benefit of the booster is questionable at best,” said O’Scanlon. “But, regardless of where one stands on vaccine efficacy, this step doesn’t make any sense. If we’re concerned about the number of hospitalizations and the care of patients, we must consider the availability of staff to care for them.

“We haven’t heard of many instances where unvaccinated health care workers have triggered outbreaks in patients. With our case rates plummeting it’s much harder to argue that this move will prevent health care workers from being out sick themselves. Given these facts, this mandate is unnecessary and could indeed be counterproductive” O’Scanlon concluded.

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