(The Center Square) – The Colorado State Board of Health approved a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers across the state on Monday in a 6-1 vote.
A special meeting was held on Zoom for over two hours which involved the members discussing the details of the mandate and taking public input. The call had a 1,000 person capacity limit, which was hit just minutes into the meeting.
The meeting was held to consider implementing emergency rules requiring licensed health care facilities to mandate that their personnel – including employees, direct contractors and support staff who interact with people seeking medical care – receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
Gov. Jared Polis sent a letter to the board just weeks ago asking the members to implement a vaccination requirement.
The board did approve the requirement for the 120 days in which emergency rules are typically set. However, the issue will appear again on Oct. 21 for a permanent rulemaking.
The rule does not apply to individual practitioners, rather licensed and certified facilities regulated by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE). Medical and religious exemptions are both covered, and facilities will be able to determine what specifically qualifies as a religious exemption. The department will not have involvement in granting individual exemptions.
“Not only is our mandate to protect the health of people in Colorado, but our mandate is also to follow the evidence of science, and I am quite disturbed about the new variant that's just coming out from South Africa,” said Patricia Hammon, the board's president. “I'm also very concerned with the amount of misinformation ... I would just ask everyone to be really careful about the information that you believe.”
Dozens of residents spoke during the time allotted for public comments, some expressing support for the mandate and others questioning the data and efficacy.
“Many of us in health care, myself included, have worked through the entirety of the pandemic holding hands of sick patients, and many of us have already acquired natural immunity. Why is natural immunity being left completely out of the equation?” asked Lorissa ArgoRay, a registered nurse who spoke in the virtual meeting while standing outside the health building at a protest.
The new measure will mean employees at about 3,800 licensed health care facilities across the state will now need to have their first vaccine dose by Sept. 30 and be fully vaccinated by Oct. 31.
The decision comes as Polis recognized on Tuesday that 75% of adult Coloradans have been vaccinated with at least one dose of a vaccine.