LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A vaccine mandate is now in effect for thousands of health care workers here in Nevada.

They must get their first dose, or risk losing their job.

It’s happening when facilities are already dealing with severe staff shortages.

The fear is that the mandate will put more pressure on an already strained workforce.

At University Medical Center, a vaccine mandate was put in place last year. The hospital says it led to a 97% vaccination rate.

“Our employees understand the importance of promoting the safest possible clinical environment for our patients and team members. When we announced the policy last year, a majority of our employees had already received the vaccine,” according to a UMC statement.

The federal mandate applies to all health care facilities that receive federal funding: Medicare and Medicaid dollars: hospitals, nursing homes, health centers and the VA system are all affected.

The Nevada Health Care Association supports the need for COVID vaccinations. But because of the severity of the current staffing crisis, they are concerned it will push more health care workers away.

“Without clinical staff, providers cannot deliver safe, quality health care to our state’s aging and ill population,” according to a statement released by the association. “Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, more than 220,000 nursing facility professionals have left their jobs nationally and have not returned. As we continue to navigate the pandemic, the staffing crisis is getting worse.”

The association said providers are “relentless” in encouraging staff to get vaccinated.

One local doctor said some health care workers might have a medical reason for not getting the vaccine.

 “There are waivers and there are some exemptions to vaccination,” said Dr. Christina Madison, founder and CEO of the Public Health Pharmacist. “Remember it’s vaccination … but if they choose not to be vaccinated, they can also be tested.”

There’s concern over the vaccination rate in Nevada nursing homes.

According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid services — at last check this morning — 83.5% of nursing home staff nationwide are fully vaccinated.

According to Data.CMS.gov, Nevada has the third lowest vaccination rate among nursing home residents – 77.6% are fully vaccinated. Only Arizona and Puerto Rico have lower rates.

At UMC, after exemptions were made, only a handful were suspended or terminated for not complying, according to a statement from the hospital.

“UMC received fewer than 200 vaccine accommodation requests from employees,” UMC said. “Many employees who had their requests denied ultimately received the vaccine.”