DC to require health care workers to get COVID-19 vaccines

All D.C. health care workers are required to get vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of September.

Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt, director of DC Health, announced at a briefing Monday that all health care workers have to have the first shot of a two-shot vaccine, or a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, by Sept. 30.

Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office said in a statement that the mandate applies to:

  • All licensed, certified and registered health professionals (those applying for new licenses or renewals will have to show proof of vaccination);
  • All EMS providers such as paramedics and emergency medical technicians (EMTs); and
  • All unlicensed healthcare workers (i.e. patient care technicians, personal care aides, environmental services staff).

While other vaccine requirements have added an option for weekly testing for those who don’t want to get vaccinated, Nesbitt said that the District wasn’t establishing that kind of requirement “at a city level.” She said, however, that “We are confident that some of our health care providers” will require it.

Most D.C. hospitals already require their workers to be vaccinated. Jacqueline D. Bowens, president and chief executive officer of the DC Hospital Association, said, “Each hospital on their own will determine what their system will be.”

Nesbitt added that any option to get tested regularly in lieu of getting vaccinated would only last as long as the emergency use authorization of the vaccines, which might not last long.

As soon as a vaccine gets full approval from the Food and Drug Administration, “there will be no exemption” except for religious or documented health reasons, Nesbitt said. “And that could happen by Sept. 30.”

Bowser said she and city officials would talk about back-to-school plans on Wednesday.

The move came as the COVID-19 numbers in the District are once again on the rise, and Nesbitt said unvaccinated people are driving the increase.

The case rate per 100,000 residents is 21.3, double what it was at this time last year, a development Nesbitt called “disheartening, given that we have vaccines.”

None of the 45 people who have died of COVID-19 in the District since May were vaccinated, Nesbitt said, adding that “our pandemic now is being driven largely by 18- to 40-year-olds,” who are less vaccinated on the whole than older people and whom Nesbitt characterized as “the ones who are keeping COVID around.”

“If you’re eligible to be vaccinated, and you’re not vaccinated, you need to do so as soon as possible,” Bowser said.

The FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week said people with compromised immune systems should get third shots of the two-shot vaccines, and Nesbitt on Monday defined some terms around that, saying that the category includes solid organ transplant recipients, many chemotherapy patients and those who have to take medicines that reduce immune responses. Anyone in that category would be under a health care provider’s care, she said, and should check with them.

She added, however, that the D.C. government can’t stop people who have been reportedly going out and getting third shots on their own by telling health care providers they haven’t been vaccinated. “We know that” people are doing that, she said, and “We will know that it is your third dose at some point.”

Bowser said several pop-up vaccine locations in D.C. are open extended hours, and reminded residents that at-home vaccinations are available; call 855-363-0333 for an appointment.


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Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2012 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He went to George Washington University as an undergraduate and is regularly surprised at the changes to the city since that faraway time.

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