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Booster mandate for healthcare workers not expected to be as controversial as initial vaccine order

Getting a COVID-19 booster shot is no longer an option for health care workers in New York. But health care officials don’t think the booster order will be as controversial as the initial state vaccine mandate last fall.

St. Joseph’s Hospital Chief Medical Officer Phillip Falcone doesn’t expect many bumps from the latest vaccine mandate out of Albany.

"I think the majority of the staff, if they haven’t already been boosted, will probably get it fairly soon, and I don’t expect it to be a major issue since they’ve already been through the first two doses of the vaccine," said Falcone.

The state’s Public Health and Planning Council approved new guidance this month that requires all health care workers to get the COVID booster within two weeks of becoming eligible. But it’s not something that will happen overnight.

“Some of this has to do with timing,” Falcone said. “You’re eligible only five months after your second dose of a two dose regimen, and two months after your J&J single dose. So it will vary depending on when colleagues got vaccinated.”

Falcone said it’s important for health care workers to get the extra shot because boosters offer more protection from potential serious illness, especially against the omicron variant. And he said St. Joseph’s, like other health care facilities, is dealing with workforce shortages as employees test positive for the virus.

"We’re trying to continue to look at everything we're doing. Consolidating our units, shifting our staff around as needed, reducing the number of elective surgeries we’re doing,” he said.

Gov. Kathy Hochul, in announcing the booster mandate, called it critical given the speed of the spread of the omicron variant even to those who have been fully vaccinated.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.