RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Certain employees within the state’s Department of Health and Human Services had a deadline Thursday to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, but officials with the agency said it could be weeks before they release information on how many have complied.
In late July, DHHS announced that employees in 14 state-run health care facilities must receive the COVID-19 vaccine unless they qualify for an exemption, noting more than 75 percent of employees subject to the mandate already were vaccinated. In three facilities it was already over 90 percent, DHHS noted.
Other state employees under the authority of Gov. Roy Cooper (D) have the option of either getting the vaccine or being tested regularly.
It was unclear Thursday what percentage of DHHS employees subject to the mandate had complied.
“As with any HR policy, those out of compliance shall be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal, for unacceptable personal conduct,” wrote DHHS spokesperson Kelly Haight in an email. “As the HR process is finalized, we will have a total number of compliant employees to share in the coming weeks.”
Sekia Royall works at the O’Berry Neuro-Medical Treatment Center in Goldsboro and is president of the North Carolina Public Service Workers Union UE Local 150.
She said her group supports the mandate though some of her co-workers have told her it should remain a choice.
“Some people don’t mind the vaccine but they don’t like the fact that the state is mandating them to do so,” she said. “The more people that get vaccinated, the better everyone else will be and be safe.”
Gov. Roy Cooper (D) visited a pharmacy in Raleigh Thursday where he and DHHS Chief Medical Officer Dr. Betsey Tilson got their flu shots and called on more people to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
“The numbers are continuing to go up. We are looking at what the consequences will be for employees that do not do that. But, we are using this time to convince people that this is something they should do,” he said.
When asked if he would consider mandates for additional state employees to be vaccinated, he said, “All of those options are on the table. And there will be consequences at the end of the day, certainly, for people who refuse testing and refuse to verify vaccinations.”
The state Office of Human Resources released updated data Thursday on employees subject to the Governor’s vaccination and testing requirements showing that 69 percent are fully vaccinated. For the state as a whole, 64 percent of adults are fully vaccinated.