Fact check: National Guard members would need vaccination to help with New York health care

·4 min read

The claim: Nurses fired for refusing vaccine in New York can be replaced by unvaccinated National Guard members

The vaccine mandate for New York health care workers has sparked a misinformed conversation among social media users.

By the Sept. 27 deadline, 92% of hospital and nursing home workers had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine – an increase of between 8% and 10% compared to the week before, The New York Times reported.

While no overwhelming statewide shortages of health care workers were reported, some social media users claimed a double standard was in place for potential replacement workers.

"NY Gov. fired all hospital staff who didn't get the shot and replaced with the National Guard," reads the text in an image widely shared on Instagram. "But the National Guard isn't mandated to get the shot until June 2022. Make it make sense."

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The post, which accumulated over 1,500 likes since it was posted Oct. 1, isn't the only one of its kind. Other versions accrued thousands more likes.

The claim stems from a contingency plan New York Gov. Kathy Hochul disclosed two days before the vaccine mandate went into effect. In it, she said the state could consider calling in the National Guard and recruiting medical workers from other states or even overseas to cover shortages if needed.

However, if called, National Guard members would have to be vaccinated, the state's Health Department told USA TODAY.

USA TODAY reached out to the poster for comment.

Service members required to be vaccinated to assist New York

Hochul's plan included preparing to sign an executive order to declare a state of emergency, which would allow out-of-state workers and other qualified health care professionals like recent graduates to assist New York hospitals facing work shortages.

Medically trained National Guard members could also be deployed across the state if needed, according to a press release from Hochul's office.

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However, they would have to be vaccinated in accordance with the vaccine mandate, Abigail Barker, a spokesperson at the New York State Department of Health, told USA TODAY in an email.

"The vaccine mandate for health care workers will apply for any National Guard members deployed into health care settings subject to the mandate," she said.

Some settings subject to the mandate include state-run facilities that fall under the state Health Department or state university system; state-run optometry and dental schools; and veterans facilities, according to the Albany Times-Union.

The state has not yet activated the National Guard for medical assistance, but the Health Department is "constantly monitoring to determine any necessary deployment," Barker said.

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The vaccination requirement for guard members in a New York health care setting is more stringent than that for the National Guard as a whole.

National Guard members have until June 30, 2022, to get fully vaccinated, which is considered two weeks after the last dose of a vaccine is administered, the U.S. Army said in September. Active-duty units have until Dec. 15 to be fully inoculated.

Soldiers who refuse vaccination will be counseled by their chain of command and medical providers first, but if they fail to comply they could face administrative or non-judicial punishment, which includes relief of duties or discharge from the unit.

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So far, as of Oct. 13, about 90% of current hospital workers in New York had been fully vaccinated, according to a state-run database. Similarly, as of Oct. 14, around 97% of workers in adult care and skilled nursing facilities had been vaccinated.

Both counts reflect tallies among active workers, not including those fired for failure to comply with the mandate.

Our rating: False

Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that nurses fired in New York for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine can be replaced by unvaccinated National Guard members. The state hasn't called the military to aid in work-related shortages caused by the vaccine mandate. However, if it did, service members and other workers assisting would have to abide by the mandate and be vaccinated, the Health Department said.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Vaccination required for military in New York hospitals

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