COVID vaccine deadline for NJ health care workers is Dec. 6

Vaccine mandates imposed by some of New Jersey’s largest health systems, including Hackensack Meridian Health, RWJBarnabas Health and Virtua Health, have leveraged the threat of job loss to push tens of thousands of employees to get shots against COVID-19. 

Now the federal government has imposed a deadline that requires almost all medical institutions across the country to adopt the same requirement, eliminating the testing option that some have permitted for employees who decline vaccination.

The new federal rule is expected to induce thousands more in New Jersey — and potentially tens of thousands of health care workers nationwide — to receive the shots.

An estimated 8,900 long-term care workers in New Jersey remain unvaccinated, as do an unknown number of employees of home health agencies, dialysis centers and residential health care facilities. Some 2,300 staff members at Atlantic Health System and a few hundred at other hospitals that have allowed frequent COVID testing as a vaccination alternative also will be affected.

Dr. Nilesh Patel receives his first does of the COVID-19 vaccine at St. Joseph's University Medical Center in Paterson on Dec. 18.

The federal deadline for those who work in these facilities and have held out until now is Dec. 6 to get the first dose of a Moderna or Pfizer vaccine or the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The emergency rule, announced Nov. 4 by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, requires any health care institution that receives funding from Medicare or Medicaid to allow vaccine exemptions only for medical or religious reasons. Everyone else must be vaccinated.