DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — As many health care systems in central North Carolina consider making the COVID-19 vaccines mandatory, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced Monday it will require all its medical staff to get the shot.
It’s the nation’s largest health system and, at the federal level, is the first agency-wide mandate of its kind.
Medical staff — including doctors, dentists, nurses, and many more — have to get fully vaccinated in the next eight weeks.
“It should be mandatory,” Lillian Gandini said.
Gandini is a periodontist at the Durham VA and said she supports the requirement.
“There’s plenty of scientific papers. There’s plenty of information,” she explained.
Gandini started working at the VA about a year ago. She said veterans shouldn’t have to worry about getting sick when they come in to get treated.
Cody Hand with the North Carolina Healthcare Association agrees.
“It’s a smart move given the growth of the Delta variant,” Hand said. “Every hospital will have exception policies for religious reasons or for health reasons. So, it’s not a 100-percent mandate.”
It comes as nearly 60 major medical organizations call for making vaccination mandatory for all health care workers. One of those groups is the American Academy of Family Physicians.
“We take an oath to save lives and care for lives and we understand how these viruses work,” Dr. Gary LeRoy, Board Chair AAFP.
As for other central North Carolina health care systems, WakeMed and Cape Fear Valley have not yet enacted a mandate, although WakeMed said it plans to.
In a statement, WakeMed said:
“We anticipate that WakeMed will require vaccination of all employees, providers and volunteers in the near future. Work is now underway to determine the details, and we’ll definitely be in touch once a firm timeline is in place.
In addition, discussions about this topic have been ongoing among members of WakeMed’s executive leaders, vaccine planning team and others for many months. WakeMed has strong confidence in the science, safety and efficacy of the vaccines, and the available data continues to reinforce these beliefs. Throughout this pandemic, our number one priority has been to protect the health and well-being of our staff, patients, family members and the broader community, and to reduce the risk for those most vulnerable to COVID-19. Science has demonstrated that the best way that we – as an organization and as individuals – can do this is through vaccination.”
Cape Fear Valley Health responded:
“At this time, Cape Fear Valley Health has not mandated COVID-19 vaccinations for employees. However, we strongly encourage all of our employees and the public to get vaccinated. The health system is still gathering and assessing feedback before making this decision.”
Gandini said she saw some pushback to the development.
“The hospitals should just get these people and educate them,” she said.
Hand said these providers will have to consider their staffing needs, how it might impact morale, and what it will mean for patients.