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VCU Health mandates vaccines for workforce, including in South Hill

South Boston News / August 09, 2021

Richmond-based VCU Health System announced Monday that it will mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for all its employees and contractors, including at VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital in South Hill, with few exceptions.

VCU Health officials said the decision to mandate vaccinations was driven by mounting evidence of the threat posed by the COVID-19 Delta variant, and incorporated feedback “from thousands of team members” who asked for the policy to be implemented.

“Requiring the vaccine will protect our patients, many of whom are elderly or have health conditions that make them particularly vulnerable to the effects of the virus. Everyone in our health care system has an ethical duty to do everything possible to keep them safe, including getting vaccinated. Although we’ll continue to wear masks and take other measures to prevent spreading COVID-19 to our patients, the Delta variant requires us to do more,” said VCU Health CEO Art Kellermann, in a statement provided by the university health system.

Kellermann, a VCU professor and senior vice president for VCU Health Sciences in addition to hospital CEO, said the mandate “ensures the safety and the welfare of our team members and their families. Getting vaccinated will sharply reduce their risk of getting infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, and it will nearly eliminate their risk of getting severely ill or dying from the disease.

“Now is the time to pivot from urging vaccination to requiring it. This is due to the sudden emergence of the Delta variant, which is more dangerous than prior strains that killed more than 600,000 Americans and millions of people worldwide. Delta is not only more contagious; it may cause more severe disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently declared that ‘The war has changed.’ We agree.”

Kellerman noted that computer models of the disease’s spread suggest that “if we don’t act quickly we could find ourselves back in the dark days of January and February. That’s not something we want to go through again.

“While we don’t want to lose a single team member over policy … we must keep our facilities, staff, patients and guests safe from the growing threat of the Delta virus and other variants. Vaccination is the most effective way to do it,” he said, via a media release.

VCU Health becomes the second major employer in Mecklenburg County to announce a vaccine mandate for its employees and contractors. Last week, Microsoft announced it would impose a similar company-wide policy, affecting all individuals at its cloud computing complex in Boydton.

In the announcement by VCU Health, Kellermann noted the mandate aligns the health system with Gov. Ralph Northam’s mandate that state employees receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The move “is also consistent with the recent actions of other academic health systems nationwide, and a growing number of health care systems in the Commonwealth,” Kellermann stated.

Through Monday, 41.8 percent of Mecklenburg County’s population was fully vaccinated, trailing the state average of 54.6 percent. The share of adults in Mecklenburg that are fully vaccinated is 50.0 percent, lower than the state average of 65.7 percent.

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