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Oregon Health Authority releases details of exceptions to COVID-19 vaccination mandates

(Update: Adding Oregon Nurses Association statement)

For health care, education staff: 'Medical exemption to the COVID vaccine is extremely rare'

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) --The Oregon Health Authority has released detailed guidelines for health care and school employees seeking COVID-19 vaccination exceptions from the vaccination mandate put in place by Gov. Kate Brown with an Oct 18 deadline.

Medical and religious exemptions are available.

Jessica LeBlanc, chief health officer for Mosaic Medical in Bend, said Thursday that those looking to be medically exempt from the vaccination mandate might be in for a surprise.

"Medical exemption to the COVID vaccine is extremely rare," LeBlanc said.

LeBlanc said very few people will likely be able to claim a medical exception, noting that only those who have had a severe anaphylactic reaction when receiving a first dose of the COVID vaccination or are allergic to any of the components in the vaccine will qualify.

The Oregon Health Authority said a medical exception must be corroborated by a document signed by a medical provider, who is not the individual seeking the exception, on a form prescribed by the OHA, certifying that the individual has a physical or mental impairment that limits the individual’s ability to receive a COVID-19 vaccination based on a specified medical diagnosis, and that specifies whether the impairment is temporary in nature or permanent.

For a religious exception, it must be corroborated by a document, on a form prescribed by the OHA and signed by the individual, stating that the individual is requesting an exception from the COVID-19 vaccination requirement on the basis of a sincerely held religious belief and including a statement describing the way in which the vaccination requirement conflicts with the religious observance, practice, or belief of the individual.

Many official fear the COVID-19 vaccination mandate will further impact the employee shortage in the affected occupation groups.

Last week, officials with both the Oregon Nurses Association and a local school district said they feared employees would leave before having to abide by the mandate.

The Redmond School Board learned Wednesday evening that seven licensed employees including teachers and 17 classified employees including janitors and bus drivers have resigned. Superintendent Dr. Charan Cline said the reasons ranged from being burned out to finding something else to do or "cashing out" amid high property values. He also said they'd asked staffers to wait until the district and its lawyer could review the new OHA rules.

LeBlanc says recent FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccination has helped.

"This will help some of those people that may have been on the fence about their decision make the decision to get vaccinated," LeBlanc said.

News release from the Oregon Nurses Association:

Mandatory Vaccinations For Nurses Are Now The Law In Oregon: What We Do Next Is Crucial
Oregon Nurses Assn. - 08/26/21 2:11 PM

Statement from the Oregon Nurses Association Board of Directors

Tualatin, Ore. - The Oregon Nurses Association Board of Directors unanimously approved the following statement regarding Governor Brown’s recent rule change implementing mandatory vaccinations for health care workers in the state:

“The question of whether or not health care workers should be required to get vaccinated has been answered: mandatory vaccinations against COVID-19 for nurses and other health care workers are now the law in Oregon. 

ONA calls upon all nurses to get vaccinated before the October 18th deadline or, alternatively, fill out the necessary paperwork for a medical or deeply held religious belief exemption. Failure to do so may result in the termination of unvaccinated nurses at a time when Oregon faces an unprecedented staffing crisis.

Our patients and our communities need you at the bedside, now more than ever before. The science is clear: vaccinations are safe and effective, and nurses and other health care workers who are vaccinated are acting in line with our ethical, clinical, and professional responsibilities to our patients. 

To all nurses in Oregon who can, ONA says ‘get vaccinated.’

ONA will continue to fight tirelessly for our members at the bargaining table on the impacts of this new mandatory vaccination requirement.  That includes fighting to ensure you are provided appropriate levels of PPE, paid time off for adverse effects of the vaccination, more (and more substantial) retention and hazard pay, pushing hard for safe staffing, and more.

At a time when nurses, and our state’s health care system, are at the breaking point, we must stand united in the face of historic failures on the part of hospitals to ensure safe staffing. All nurses know that this staffing crisis has been years in the making; the COVID-19 pandemic has simply pushed those failures into the spotlight.

This current level of crisis was created by hospitals who have failed to invest in their nursing staff, failed to recruit and retain experienced nurses, placed a greater focus on profitability than patient outcomes, and have done so at the expense of nurses. 

We have so much work to do for our patients, and for each other. We have so many more issues that unite us than we do that divide us; safe staffing, nurse recruitment and retention, increasing the number of future nurses, increased pay for nursing faculty, iron-clad protections against violence in the workplace, ensuring rest and meal breaks, improving working conditions and wages; these must be our focus now.”

Article Topic Follows: Coronavirus

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Leslie Cano

Leslie Cano is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Leslie here.


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