Oregon to Require COVID-19 Vaccinations for Health Care Workers

By Sarah J. Ryan and Kevin M. Coles © Jackson Lewis September 8, 2021
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​Following on the heels of an executive order by Oregon's governor requiring full vaccination for teachers, staff and volunteers in K-12 schools, the Oregon Health Authority recently issued a new rule requiring that health care providers and health care staff be vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Oct. 18.

"Health care providers" and "health care staff" mean individuals in a health care setting who have the potential for direct or indirect exposure to patients, residents or infectious materials. Health care setting includes a health care facility, whether inpatient or outpatient, and assisted living facilities.

On or before Oct. 18, health care providers and health care staff must provide their employer with either proof of vaccination showing they are fully vaccinated (two doses of a two-dose vaccine or one dose of a single vaccine plus 14 days since the final dose) or documentation of medical or religious exception. "Medical exception" means an individual has a physical or mental impairment that prevents or limits the individual from receiving a COVID-19 vaccination. "Religious exception" means an individual has a sincerely held religious belief that prevents the individual from receiving a COVID-19 vaccination.

The new rule effectively removes lingering obstacles under Oregon law that, until now, had limited or prevented health care industry employers from requiring that all their employees be fully vaccinated.

A few open questions remain under the rule. Section 3(b) of the new rule states that an employer of a health care provider or health care staff may not "employ" a health care provider or staff at a health care setting unless they are fully vaccinated or have a documented medical or religious exception.

Does the rule require the employer to terminate the employment of a noncompliant employee? Or is an employer allowed to place the noncompliant employee on leave until compliance is obtained or the vaccination rules are modified? Section 2(f) of the rule defines a medical exception as "a physical or mental impairment that prevents the individual from receiving a vaccination." But Section 4(b) defines documentation of a medical exception as a medical provider certification that an individual has a physical or mental impairment that limits (rather than prevents) the ability to receive a vaccination.

Sarah J. Ryan and Kevin M. Coles are attorneys with Jackson Lewis in Portland, Ore. © 2021 Jackson Lewis. All rights reserved. Reposted with permission.

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