The state Board of Health voted Friday to require vaccinations for those who work with vulnerable populations. That includes both state staff and contract employees working in licensed health care facilities, state correctional institutions and those state facilities for the detention of children.
DuAne Young, senior adviser to Gov. Steve Sisolak, told the board those workers must show proof of vaccination on or before Nov. 1.
About a dozen people turned out to protest the decision during public comment, the majority of them state workers in the Department of Corrections. Board members were told the decision and the mandates announced by President Joe Biden on Thursday are an unconstitutional violation of their rights by threatening their jobs if they don’t get vaccinated.
But Young said there will be exemptions from the requirement for those with valid medical conditions preventing them from being vaccinated as well as limited religious exceptions.
“We hope by taking this action, it will encourage all our partners in the private sector to take similar actions,” he said.
Dr. Jeff Murawsky, a member of the health board, said this isn’t an unprecedented decision, that the state has required vaccinations for those dealing with vulnerable populations for a long time.
“Beyond current mandates, we feel this will be complimentary to requirements laid out for Medicare and Medicaid,” he said referring to the orders spelled out by Biden on Thursday.
The president said vaccinations will be required for workers who deal with patients and recipients in all facilities in order to continue receiving Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements.
Opponents said if the requirement is imposed, the state stands to lose more than half the unvaccinated staff in the Department of Corrections. Others argued other agencies would lose a third of their staff members to resignations.
But Young said although people can get upset by the new rules, “people realize they came to public service for a reason and many will eventually comply.”
The vote was unanimous of the board members present.
Other state workers are already required to either show proof of vaccination or get tested for the virus weekly.