Hawaii medical facilities weigh whether to require coronavirus vaccine for employment

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Hospitals in Hawaii are not yet requiring workers to be fully vaccinated.

The head of the Hawaii Nurses Association said they are prepared to discuss the matter with employers as more doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are becoming available.

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About 80% of health care workers in Hawaii have been vaccinated. Hilton Raethel, president and CEO of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii, said the high vaccination rate among medical workers makes a mandate less pressing. Medical facilities may begin mandating vaccines once the doses have full FDA approval, however.

Raethel said, “The potential barriers will certainly be reduced once the vaccines receive full FDA approval, maybe that is the trigger some employers are looking for.”

The Queen’s Health Systems said they are not considering requiring a COVID-19 vaccine for employment as of Wednesday, June 23.

Hawaii Pacific Health in a statement said more information is needed before making a decision.

Hawai‘i Pacific Health has not made it a requirement for our employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine. With more to learn about how the COVID-19 vaccine will be part of our regular healthcare needs moving forward, such as the need for booster shots or whether we will need it annually like the flu shot, we believe more information is needed before any decision is made about it being a requirement for staff. Our staff who work in direct patient care have safely cared for patients since the start of the pandemic following our PPE standards and guidelines, and this continues today regardless of their vaccination status. Although we do not require our employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine, we are proud that 84% of Hawai’i Pacific Health employees are vaccinated.

Daniel Ross, president of the Hawaii Nurses Association, said a COVID-19 vaccine should remain a choice.

“We support it and encourage it, I personally am vaccinated, my family is vaccinated,” Ross said. “But I don’t feel like it’s my place to dictate or my employer’s place to dictate to somebody else what personal decisions they make on that.”

Federal laws do not prevent employers from requiring a vaccine as long as certain exemptions are provided.

Ross said he wants to see broad exemptions for workers if the shot ever becomes a requirement in Hawaii.

Ross said, “If there’s a reason you cannot be vaccinated, they have to accommodate for that, and so that’s where we are working with management to be liberal in a reasonable accommodation.”

Besides hospitals waiting for the vaccine to become FDA approved, Raethel said facilities are taking to make a decision as they cannot afford to lose employees over vaccine disputes.

Raethel said, “There are shortages in a number of industries including health care. So one of the concerns is if an employer or healthcare organization would put a mandate in place there are some individuals who might leave.”

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