Some N.J. health workers weigh quitting over new vaccine mandate. Will it escalate the staffing crisis? - Health Professionals & Allied Employees

Some N.J. health workers weigh quitting over new vaccine mandate. Will it escalate the staffing crisis?

Taken from

By Elizabeth Llorente

January 30, 2022

Pamela Weidermann has had enough.

The recovery room nurse was the first staffer in her department at a New Jersey hospital to get the COVID-19 vaccine, she says, after it rolled out in late 2020.

But she does not want a booster shot. She remains unsure about getting one, even if her job depends on it.

I was for [coronavirus vaccination] because I do not want to wear these masks everywhere for the rest of my life, and I thought, ‘OK, this is going to be my way out,’” said Weidermann, who spoke to NJ Advance Media on the condition that her employer was not disclosed. “It was tunnel vision, but that’s the way I felt.”

She has since grown ambivalent about the vaccine — and booster shots — after hearing more and reading about them, she says. Weidermann then contracted COVID-19 on Jan. 13. The North Jersey nurse contends the antibodies from the infection should protect her for a few months, making a booster unnecessary.

But after Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive order earlier this month — requiring health care workers and everyone else working in “high-risk congregate settings” to be vaccinated and boosted while eliminating the weekly testing option — she may not have a choice.

“I guess I have to cross that bridge when I get to it,” Weidermann said. “I don’t want to give up 32 years of seniority. I love where I am now. I love working in the recovery department.

“Everyone needs to make a living, and nobody’s job should be in jeopardy over something that a politician is demanding.”

Weidermann is among a small minority of New Jersey health care workers who have concerns about the vaccine but remained in the industry without seeking a medical or religious exemption. Now they feel cornered by Murphy’s latest mandate as a staffing crisis continues to plague hospitals and long-term care facilities.

Some workers say they will walk off the job as the deadline looms, while others debate their next move.

New Jersey hospital systems and health care unions say the vast majority of their employees are vaccinated — though it is unclear how many are boosted — due to largely pro-vaccine attitudes and a number of previous government and corporate mandates.

While the holdouts amount to only a fraction of the state’s health care employees, worker shortages in many hospitals and other facilities have reached a crisis level. Even a marginal number of losses will strain already overstretched staffs, threatening to affect patient care, experts say.

While they support vaccines, union leaders say the mandates have not helped during a delicate time when the health care system faces a critical worker shortage.

“The pressing issue for HPAE members is confronting a staffing crisis that the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated to the breaking point,” said Debbie White, a registered nurse and president of Health Professionals and Allied Employees, the state’s largest health care workers union.

The new vaccine requirement has different deadlines for health care workers and employees in congregate settings, such as those in long-term care and correctional facilities. Health care workers employed at facilities that receive funding through Medicare and Medicaid had until Jan. 27 to get a first vaccine and until Feb. 28 to complete a primary vaccination series and, if eligible, a booster.

Read more here.