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Colorado extends vaccine requirement for health care workers as industry employment wanes

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Robert Davis | The Center Square contributor

(The Center Square) – Colorado public health officials extended the state’s vaccine requirements for health care workers on Wednesday as the number of employees in the sector wanes. 

The State Board of Health first passed the emergency rule in August that requires all licensed health care entities that serve people seeking medical care to require their employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The rule applies to employees, direct contractors, and support staff. 

The rule will remain in effect for 120 days, though the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said it will “continue to monitor local conditions and national initiatives to determine the future of this emergency rule.”

“I am pleased the Board of Health passed this rule a second time,” Randy Kuykendall, director of Health Facilities and Emergency Medical Services Division at CDPHE, said in a statement. “This rule protects not only those who are most vulnerable, but also healthcare workers themselves.”

According to CDPHE data, more than 91 percent of all workers in licensed health care facilities are vaccinated. This includes an 86 percent vaccination rate for workers in birth centers; an 83 percent rate for home care workers; and a 93 percent rate for nursing home employees. 

But data from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment also shows that the employment rate in the health care sector has shrunk. Meanwhile, state projections also estimate that the industry will see a 1.75 percent growth rate over the next two years compared to industries like food services which are anticipated to grow at nearly 5 percent over the same period. 

Despite the employment situation, CDPHE officials described the vaccine requirement as “a huge benefit to all of those who are seeking health care in Colorado.”

“I am so proud of the way the healthcare community has responded to the pandemic generally; the way they responded to the vaccination requirements is another example of their commitment to public health,” Kuykendall said.