Albany Med mandates staff vaccination as COVID statistics worsen


ALBANY — Albany Medical Center is the latest employer to require its workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, and one of the largest.

It announced Wednesday afternoon that all 10,000 employees will need to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 1; those who don’t will be terminated unless they obtain one of the limited number of exemptions and deferrals that will be granted.

Students, volunteers and vendors also are mandated to be vaccinated.

More than 80 percent of the Albany Med workforce is now fully vaccinated — well above the 63% vaccination rate in Albany County but still well below 100%.

Albany Med has played a significant role in the Capital Region vaccination campaign: The first vaccine doses administered in the Capital Region were in the arms of employees in an Albany Med lobby on Dec. 14, and Albany Med also led the Capital Region Vaccine Network.

Dr. Dennis McKenna, president and CEO of Albany Med, said the hospital continues to admit COVID-positive patients, the majority of whom are not vaccinated, and it’s important that the hospital staff be vaccinated. The arrival of the rapidly spreading delta variant of COVID is a particular concern for the hospital.

“My colleagues have worked so hard to protect each other and the people we serve, and we must continue to lead by example,” he said in a prepared statement. “I thank all my colleagues for their untiring efforts and urge every member of our workforce — and our neighbors in the community — to get vaccinated. The vaccine is safe. It will put the pandemic behind us.”

The other major presence in the Capital Region medical landscape, St. Peter’s Health Partners, issued the same directive a month ago, with a Sept. 21 deadline.

Both organizations said booster shots are not required now but will be mandatory for staff if guidance is later issued indicating boosters provide a benefit.

Meanwhile, the picture painted by COVID statistics continues to be positive compared with early 2021 but continues to worsen compared with early July, both statewide and in the Capital Region:

  • The seven-day statewide positive test rate statewide Tuesday hit 2.7%, up from 0.5% a month earlier.
  • The Capital Region, by a significant margin, has the highest seven-day positive test rate in the state, at 3.9%.
  • Albany (4.3%), Saratoga (4.3%) and Schenectady counties (4.7%) have among the highest seven-day rates in the state.
  • Capital Region hospitals have jumped from seven to 57 COVID-positive inpatients in one month’s time.
  • In the eight-county Capital Region, 136 positive tests were recorded Tuesday, compared with four on July 3.
  • Saratoga County, one of the few local governmental entities distinguishing between infections in vaccinated and non-vaccinated people in its reporting, said Wednesday that 37% of new COVID infections confirmed in county residents in the last week have been in vaccinated individuals; three of the 13 people currently hospitalized with COVID in Saratoga County are fully vaccinated. Nearly 66% of Saratoga County residents were fully vaccinated as of Wednesday. 

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