Closeup of clinician's hands getting vaccine dose ready

New York state’s decision to mandate COVID-19 vaccination for healthcare workers under penalty of dismissal appears to be having success among nursing home staff, while the delta variant has raised U.S. vaccination rates overall, the latest data show.

All nursing home and hospital employees in New York were required to get at least a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by Monday, Sept. 27.

By midnight of the Monday deadline, the state saw the rate of nursing home and hospital workers with at least one shot rise to 92%, according to the New York Times. A week prior, nursing home staff vaccination rates in the state were at 82%, the news outlet reported.

There have been protests against the mandate, and thousands of workers in the state now may apply for a religious exemption. This was not an option in the original policy, and challenges to the rule were successful, resulting in an extended deadline of Oct. 12 for those who wish to apply for exemption.  Meanwhile, the deadline for home care workers to receive a first shot is Thursday, Oct. 7.

Unvaccinated Americans less concerned

But New York’s uptick in jabs may be a sign that strict vaccination mandates will not lead to a mass staff exodus. And more mandates may be necessary to help budge stagnant nursing home worker vaccination numbers nationwide. The overall rate for these workers nationwide remains at about 64%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 Nursing Home Data tracker. 

Americans who remain unvaccinated tend not to be as concerned about the health risks of COVID-19 illness than those who are vaccinated, a new Pew Research Survey has found. They also are less likely to take precautions such as mask-wearing in stores, Pew researchers reported.

This may leave health officials with few options to move the needle on vaccinations in the workforce. Nearly 58% of Americans support the recent federal mandate that larger employers require vaccines or weekly testing for their workers, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor for September, released Tuesday, Sept. 28. And 78% said they support the requirement that employers offer workers paid time off to get vaccinated and recover from side effects.

Delta raises vax rates

But other forces may be at play as well. The highly contagious delta variant is behind a recent uptick in the number of overall vaccinations in the United States, from two-thirds to three-quarters of Americans now vaccinated, KFF’s tracking showed. 

And a requirement that staff in all Medicare- and Medicaid-certified facilities be vaccinated against COVID-19 continues to take shape. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is developing an Interim Final Rule with Comment Period that will be issued in October, the agency announced in early September. 

President Biden has also built a “Path out of the Pandemic” plan that includes requirements for vaccination that “will become dominant in the workplace,” according to the White House.  

Since July, the share of job postings that require vaccination are up 90% nationwide, the White House said.