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Region’s health care organizations to require vaccines for employees

Sentara Healthcare and Riverside Health System are among the Hampton Roads health care organizations that will require their employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 18. 

Chesapeake Regional Healthcare and Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters will also require their employees to be fully vaccinated, according to a joint announcement from the four organizations Wednesday. 

Bon Secours issued a separate statement saying it would also require employees to be vaccinated, but has not yet set a deadline. 

The joint statement from four of the region’s health care organizations said the timeline would give employees eight weeks to be fully vaccinated now that the FDA has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are still available under an emergency use authorization. 

They said they “each have a moral and ethical responsibility to protect the health of their team members, patients, residents and communities through a vaccination requirement.”

Sentara, Riverside, CHKD and Chesapeake Regional Healthcare have begun notifying their employees of the requirement Wednesday morning and providing them resources about the vaccines’ safety and benefits, as well as how to get vaccinated. Their vaccination policy extends to their affiliated physicians, volunteers, students and others who work in and for their respective health systems.

The region’s health care providers all said the recent surge in Delta variant cases has prompted health care organizations across the United States to take more proactive measures to fight the coronavirus pandemic, including vaccination requirements for employees.

Multiple health associations have issued their support for health care workers receiving vaccinations, including the Catholic Health Association, the American Hospital Association, American Medical Association, American Nurses Association and the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association. 

“Bon Secours is in agreement with all Hampton Roads health care organizations that announced they have each expanded their employee vaccination policies to include the expectation that all team members will be fully vaccinated against COVID-19,” its statement said. “Bon Secours plans to implement a requirement for all associates and providers physically based in Hampton Roads to be vaccinated. Bon Secours’ effective date for the vaccine requirements has not been determined at this time but it will most likely be in the fall.”

The Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association issued a statement July 18 supporting vaccine requirements for all hospital and health system employees. 

“We applaud Chesapeake Regional Healthcare, Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters Health System, Riverside Health System and Sentara Healthcare for taking this important step in the name of public health and safety,” said Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association President and CEO Sean Connaughton in a statement. “Virginia hospitals and health systems have helped lead the way on vaccination efforts in the Commonwealth, having collectively administered more than two million COVID-19 vaccine doses since December 2020, including thousands of shots given to health care professionals.”

Other health care organizations across the state are also requiring their employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19, including VCU Health in Richmond, Inova Health System in Northern Virginia, Valley Health in the northwestern part of the state and UVA Health in Charlottesville. 

Inova Health System VCU Health employees need to have at least a first-dose vaccination by Sept. 15. UVA Health is requiring its employees to be fully vaccinated by Nov. 1. 

Among health care workers statewide, there have been 32,595 COVID-19 cases, 960 hospitalizations and 96 deaths.