PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Health care workers and people at higher-education institutions in Philadelphia are required to receive the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine Friday under the city's vaccine mandate.
City leaders said that the vast majority of hospital workers have been vaccinated and that they do not anticipate any major work shortages as the mandate is implemented.
This mandate comes as no surprise for health care workers and those in higher education.
The city initially announced in August people in these groups to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 15. But the city changed course and extended the deadline last week, saying staff, students and faculty at universities and workers in hospitals and long-term health care facilities are required to get the first dose by Oct. 15.
If needed, with the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, a second dose is required by Nov. 15.
Other health care workers will need the first dose by Oct. 22, followed by a second dose (if needed) a month after that date.
"My hope is that this additional time will help to get all of these workers over the last hurdles to accepting vaccination," Dr. Cheryl Bettigole, Philadelphia's Acting Health Commissioner, said.
Bettigole said the city strongly recommends employers at health care facilities and universities to make sure all of their staff has the shots by Nov. 15.
"What they do after the 15th, they are not required to terminate people. They simply can't have them work," Bettigole said. "They could carry people on unpaid leave and get them a certain amount to time to get vaccinated. That probably would be a reasonable approach, but it's not an option to continue to have these unvaccinated staff members coming into these facilities."
Bettigole said that regardless of Philadelphia's vaccine mandate, the federal mandate will soon be announced for all health care facilities that receive Medicare and Medicaid funding.
Under the federal mandate, there will be no testing option for health care workers, so they would have to be vaccinated in order to work, according to Bettigole.
"In high-risk health care settings, like hospitals and nursing homes, it really can be a matter of life and death," Bettigole said. "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. 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."
Bettigole also said that there are a few nursing homes with low vaccination rates among staff members. She encourages those employers to increase vaccination efforts.
No more extensions will be given to receive the vaccine, Bettigole said.