Clovis Genesis Healthcare requires employees to have first dose of COVID-19 vaccine by late August

Published: Aug. 5, 2021 at 6:25 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 5, 2021 at 6:31 PM CDT
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AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - Workers at one of the largest nursing home chains in the nation are being told get the COVID-19 vaccine or potentially lose your job.

So far, the nursing home industry has kept vaccinations optional, partly due to the fear that employees set against vaccines would leave their jobs, at a time where staffing shortages are an issue.

“I definitely think there is momentum for many private employers to mandate vaccination,” said Vicki H. Wilmarth, employment law attorney at Wright Wilmarth Byrd PLLC.

However, all that could change as one of the biggest players, Genesis Healthcare is requiring employees to have a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by August 23.

According to an employee at one of the company’s facilities in Clovis, NM the mandate will impact 70 percent of their staff.

“From here remember that we may be within a week from having the Pfizer vaccine being fully approved,” said Dr. Brian Weis, chief medical officer at Northwest Texas Hospital.

During a city conference, Dr. Weis said some entities could be waiting for full FDA approval of vaccines.

“At that point, just like the influenza vaccine that we require for all staff, I think we feel more comfortable saying, we can mandate the vaccine for our workers,” said Dr. Weis.

Just last week the department of Veterans Affairs applied the same policy to some its healthcare worker.

“Veterans deserve a fully vaccinated workforce to ensure their safety from the moment they step inside our medical center,” said Dr. Rodney Gonzalez, medical center director. “Here at the Amarillo VA Health Care System, we will continue to provide easy access to COVID-19 vaccines for our employees. As with other vaccinations, employees may also obtain vaccines from outside providers.”

Only religious and medical exemptions are permitted.

“If they did had a religious objection, I’m sure they can get a letter, something from their pastor saying this is a sincere religious belief,” said Wilmarth. “As far as the disability is concerned, all that’s gonna’ take is some sort of note from a treating physician that says, ‘I treated this patient, I know what their medical history is and they have a medical issue that would not allow them to get vaccinated’.”

Wilmarth also says, there is not much room for an employee to challenge the vaccination mandates.

“Employment particularly in Texas is called, at-will employment and that means you can be fired for good reason, bad reason or no reason at all,” said Wilmarth. “It also means that you can quit for any reason that you want. That contract between employee and employer means you don’t have a right to that job.”

She adds, “It’s not that the federal government is saying you must be vaccinated against your will, it’s just saying there will be other consequences if you don’t.”

Genesis says the goal is to protect patients, residents and employees.

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