All health care workers in D.C. must be vaccinated against COVID-19, the District’s health department announced Monday.
Health care workers must prove by Sept. 30 that they have received a vaccine, Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt said at a news conference.
The vaccine mandate will apply to licensed, certified and registered health professionals; EMS providers such as paramedics and EMTs; and all unlicensed health care workers such as patient care technicians, personal care aides and environmental services staff.
District officials aim to protect hospital patients and prevent hospital workers from becoming vectors for the virus, Mayor Muriel Bowser said.
Some exemptions will be made due to religious beliefs or medical conditions. There will be an opt-out clause, but not for long. Workers will have an alternative to vaccines, such as regular testing. That option will be up to the employers.
But D.C. will fully mandate vaccines once they receive full authorization, not emergency authorization, by federal officials, Nesbitt said. At that point, health care workers could lose their licenses if they refuse to get vaccinated.
The health director urged employers to require employees to get vaccinated.
“That is low-hanging fruit, in my opinion. The more employers move in that direction, the higher our vaccination rates go in the region,” Nesbitt said.
D.C.’s daily COVID-19 case rate continues to climb, in an increase Nesbitt called “disheartening” alongside the widespread availability of vaccines that prevent illness and death.
Many D.C. hospitals said earlier this summer that all employees would need to be vaccinated against the virus.
The News4 I-Team found earlier this summer that thousands of doctors and nurses in the D.C. still had not been vaccinated.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention designated D.C. last week as a jurisdiction with a “high” level of community transmission of the virus, the most severe of four color-coded designations.
Stay with NBC Washington for more details on this developing story.