MORGANTOWN — Following Monday’s announcement by the West Virginia Hospital Association that it supports hospitals and health systems to require COVID-19 vaccination of their employees with local factors and circumstances shaping how and when their policies are implemented, as well as the FDA’s approval of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, the West Virginia University Health System announced (Aug. 23) that it will require all of its employees to be fully vaccinated with both doses of the two-dose series by Oct. 31, 2021.
“We’re doing this because it is the right thing to do. We are the state’s leading healthcare provider and largest employer, and we have a higher obligation to our patients as well as to each other. I want WVU Medicine hospitals and clinics to be as safe as possible for our patients and staff. A fully vaccinated workforce will help ensure that safety,” Albert L. Wright, Jr., president and CEO of the WVU Health System, said.
“We also have to ensure we maintain the integrity of our operations and not allow a situation to develop where several hundred of our employees are out due to COVID. The number of unvaccinated staff out due to COVID is increasing and is starting to have a material impact on our patient care mission. We also cannot have a two-tiered workforce with one that is vaccinated and one that is not. This places an unfair burden on our vaccinated staff, our patients, and public, all of whom expect us to be able to provide the services they need, when they need them. While there’s uncertainty with the current wave we are now in, we know one thing for certain: the vaccine is extremely safe and effective.”
This decision also comes on the same day the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is granting full approval of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, which the Health System had already administered to more than 60 percent of its workforce while its use was permitted under an emergency use authorization.
“Since these vaccines were authorized in December, millions of Americans have safely received the COVID vaccine, including the majority of our workforce. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the FDA, and other regulatory agencies are closely monitoring the vaccines as they are being used in the general population. If there are any safety concerns that do arise, they can make sure they thoroughly investigate and address those concerns,” Meera Mehta, Pharm.D., B.C.I.D.P., WVU Medicine Infectious Diseases clinical specialist, said.
“I have dedicated my career to infectious diseases, and I have been studying the COVID-19 virus and the vaccines very, very closely. That is why I chose to get it—to protect myself, to protect my patients that I work with in the hospital, to protect my community, and to protect all the people that I love.”
The vaccine mandate applies to employees of all WVU Health System hospitals and clinics, including those in West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia, and also applies to staff who are working remotely at home or onsite.
For more information on COVID-19, including vaccination, testing, and what to do if you are sick with the virus, visit WVUMedicine.org/COVID.