Health care workers across metro face deadline to get vaccinated or fired

ATLANTA — Thousands of health care workers across Georgia are facing a hard deadline Friday: Get vaccinated for COVID-19 or be fired.

Hospitals across the metro have ordered workers to be vaccinated to slow the spread of the delta variant.

As Channel 2′s Tom Regan found out, that deadline doesn’t apply to everyone.

Friday’s deadline is just for management, doctors and vendors. Nurses and other staff have until Nov. 1 to get their shots.

Some who have been reluctant say this is changing their minds about the vaccine.

“Has Grady (Memorial Hospital) told you all that if you don’t get vaccinated, you’ll be terminated?” Regan asked emergency room assistant Dyrez Riberio.

“Terminated, yes sir,” Riberio said.

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Riberio said it was his personal decision to forgo the vaccine. But the threat of losing his job has changed his thinking on getting his shots.

“The deadline is November first. I plan on doing it on the deadline,” Riberio said.

The push to get health care workers, especially doctors and nurses, vaccinated has intensified amid a critical shortage of staffing at many hospitals.

Regan spoke to Dr. Gerald Harmon, president of the American Medical Association, which is advocating mandatory vaccinations for those in the medical field.

“We think it’s important that health care providers, health care workers, make a safe environment for themselves and for patient who seek car in the COVID pandemic,” Harmon said.

But some health care workers are pushing back. More than 150 employees of Wellstar protested its vaccine requirement, starting Oct. 1.

“It’s against my beliefs to do testing on animals, and also I don’t want to be a test. I don’t want to be part of an experimental drug,” one protester said.

Northside Hospital and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta have held back on imposing a COVID-19 vaccine mandate out of concern over losing employees, especially pediatric nurses. They’re offering a bonus for those who get the vaccine.

A Grady medical assistant hasn’t been vaccinated but told Regan she wants to keep her job.

“I’m going to go ahead and do it. Next week actually,” the medical assistant said.

Both Piedmont and Emory hospitals are also requiring workers to be vaccinated starting Friday. They say only a minimal number of workers have chosen not to.

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