October 13, 2021
Philadelphia health officials will not extend the deadline for health care workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
All hospital workers and long-term care facility employees must have at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine or present a medical or religious exemption by Friday, acting Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole said. The mandate also applies to college staffers, faculty and students.
Those who do not comply risk losing their jobs or being unable to continue their studies.
The city extended the deadline last week out of concerns that it would prompt staffing shortages. Bettigole said she had been asked to issue another extension, but decided against it. She said more than 85% of health care workers have been vaccinated and there is still time for others to get their shots.
"At some point, we have to take a firm stance and say that protecting the lives of people who are most vulnerable is of paramount importance," Bettigole said, noting the federal government is about to release details of its own upcoming mandate.
Despite the deadline, Bettigole said officials don't anticipate any widespread worker shortages, which would be concerning for hospitals and nursing homes. Other health care workers must have their first doses by Oct. 22.
"Given that in these settings, a health care worker's most important job is to keep people alive, being vaccinated during a pandemic is the lowest bar to clear," Bettigole said. "I've said it before. If you're not willing to do what it takes to protect patients, maybe health care isn't the job for you."
The deadline comes as COVID-19 cases continue to fall, though community transmission remains high.
Philadelphia is averaging 236 new cases per day, its lowest daily average since mid-September. Bettigole said vaccination numbers also show a positive trend.
As of Wednesday, 86% of Philadelphia adults have received at least one dose, and 70% have completed both. Among people age 12 and older, 80% have received at least one dose and 65% are fully vaccinated.
"This wave is far from over, but things are trending in a good direction," Bettigole said.
Another 24,000 residents have received a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine, Bettigole said. If the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves boosters of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, they will become available in the city, too.
Seniors ages 65 and older, long-term care facility residents and adults with underlying health conditions who completed Pfizer's two-dose COVID-19 vaccine regimen at least six months ago are eligible for a booster shot, according to federal guidance. So are adults who work in high-risk settings, like health care workers and teachers.
There have been 177,711 COVID-19 cases and 3,911 deaths in Philadelphia since the pandemic began.
Bettigole emphasized the importance of vaccination for eligible residents who are not vaccinated. Residents can find their nearest vaccine clinic by calling (215) 685-5488 or visiting the city's website.