97% of Colorado healthcare workers were vaccinated or received exemptions before the state deadline

Ninety percent of Colorado’s healthcare workers were fully vaccinated against COVID-19 on Tuesday, although people providing home care were significantly less likely to have been vaccinated.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reported that 90.2% of workers were fully vaccinated and 1.4% were partially vaccinated. More than 5% of workers had a dispensation: 4.2% were religious dispensations and 1.3% were medical dispensations.

Sunday was the deadline for almost all facilities to comply with the immunization mandate that the state’s health council issued in late August. Individual medical practices and emergency care facilities, which are not regulated by the state, are exempt.

State data did not make it clear how many of the 3% who were not vaccinated and did not have an exemption were still working in health care. Some hospitals have said they have already fired those employees or taken their non-compliance as a letter of resignation, while others have said unvaccinated workers are on leave as they try to find a solution.

The high overall vaccination rate masked a large variation. Dialysis centers had the highest rate, with more than 95% of employees listed as fully immunized. This is not entirely surprising, as people with end-stage kidney disease are at high risk of hospitalization or death from many infections, including COVID-19.

At the other end of the spectrum, only about 79% of people working for home care agencies were fully immunized. Home care agencies primarily provide personal care that does not require medical training, such as helping clients get dressed or do housework. Most home care clients are over 65 or have a significant disability, which means they could also be at high risk if a worker unknowingly brought the virus into their home.

The state scorecard did not allow for comparisons between employee types, but national data showed that people with higher levels of education are more likely to get the vaccine than those with less education .

Full vaccination rates, as reported to the Colorado Department of Health Tuesday afternoon, were as follows:

  • Dialysis centers: 95.4%
  • Service residences: 91.9%
  • Hospitals: 91.6%
  • Community mental health centers: 91.5%
  • Hospice: 91.5%
  • Retirement homes : 90.8%
  • Ambulatory surgery centers: 90.7%
  • Autonomous emergencies: 90.2%
  • Community clinics: 88.7%
  • Acute treatment units: 88.0% (These provide short-term psychiatric treatment for people who need something between outpatient and inpatient care)
  • Intermediate care establishments for people with intellectual disabilities: 87.0%
  • Birth centers: 86.2%
  • Convalescent centers: 85.4% (These provide hospital care to people recovering from injury or illness.
  • Accommodation establishments for people with intellectual disabilities: 84.3%
  • Home health agencies: 81.7% (These mainly offer medical care, unlike home care agencies)
  • Home help agencies: 78.7%

There was also significant variation within categories. Denver Health has said more than 97% of its employees are fully immunized, but Parkview Medical Center in Pueblo has shown that only about 88% are.

Colorado Health Systems reported that relatively few employees were unvaccinated:

  • SCL Health, which has five hospitals in Colorado, reported that about 1% of employees did not comply on Monday. About 5.3% received a medical or religious dispensation, and the rest were vaccinated.
  • Centura Health, which has 15 hospitals in Colorado and two in Kansas, said 0.3% of its workers system-wide had not obtained the vaccine or an exemption.
  • HealthOne, which has eight hospitals in Colorado, said 93% of employees were vaccinated last week and less than 1% were granted an exemption. Updated figures were not available on Tuesday.
  • UCHealth set a deadline of October 1. It laid off 119 people for non-vaccination, or about 0.5% of employees.

SCL said it will suspend employees for three days and will consider this a notice of resignation if they do not get vaccinated or apply for an exemption before the end of their suspension. Centura said it was working with unvaccinated employees to bring them into compliance, and HealthOne did not describe the steps it would take.

In Denver, people who work in high-risk environments, including healthcare facilities, had to get vaccinated by Oct. 1 to comply with a city mandate. The city has not released data on compliance at healthcare facilities, but reported that about 99% of city employees have obtained the vaccine or an exemption. The vast majority have chosen to be vaccinated.

By the time the state council adopted the mandate, some predicted that up to 20% of healthcare workers could choose not to comply. Two national surveys in June found that about half of unvaccinated workers, across all industries, said they would quit rather than get vaccinated.

Most employers reported that 2% or less of employees eventually quit or were fired, although some small hospitals reported as many as 5% of employees left, according to Fierce Healthcare.

Typically, people made redundant due to a vaccination mandate are not eligible for unemployment, and it would be difficult to find a job in the health care field that does not require vaccination due to a federal mandate.

Any health care facility paid for by Medicare or Medicaid – in practice, almost all providers except small concierge surgeries – must require their employees to be immunized.

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