DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – UNC Health officials said Monday that they are extending their deadline for employees to get their vaccine to Nov. 2.
Originally, UNC Health had set Sept. 21 as the deadline for when employees would be required to have the vaccine or a religious or medical exemption.
When the mandate was first announced in late July, 72 percent of the employees within UNC Health were vaccinated. Since the mandate was announced, more than 2,200 employees have been vaccinated and now nearly 95 percent of their employees have either been vaccinated or received an exemption.
Officials with UNC Health said they are extending the deadline to give the remaining 5 percent of employees another chance to remain employed with UNC Health.
UNC Health’s vaccine mandate impacts employees at Chatham Hospital, Johnston Hospital, UNC Health Alliance, UNC Medical Center, UNC Physicians Network, and UNC Rex Healthcare.
UNC Health said they have had 60 employees resign since they announced their vaccine mandate in late July.
Outside of UNC Medical Center in Chapel Hill on Monday afternoon, CBS 17 spoke with several UNC Health employees who said they are fully vaccinated.
Garrett Grilock, who works in the cell biology and physiology lab at UNC Health’s School of Medicine, said he was vaccinated as soon as the vaccine came out. He said he is concerned about employees leaving during a nurse shortage.
“I agree with UNC Health that the vaccine should be mandated,” Grilock said. “It is terrible that people are deciding to leave over the mandate of the vaccine.”
Allison Arp is a resident with UNC Health’s psychiatry department. She said she has already been vaccinated, but she thinks it’s a good thing the health care system is extending its deadline in hopes more people will decide to get the vaccine.
“If it takes more time to help people understand better or get more education, then sure, I think that’s OK, but I think the sooner the better,” Arp said.
Duke Health officials had also set a Sept. 21 deadline for when employees would need to have received the vaccine.
In an email sent by Duke Health officials to CBS 17 on Monday, they said that if employees have not complied with the vaccine mandate by 10 a.m. on Sept. 21, they are subject to unpaid administrative leave and dismissal.
Data from Duke Health show that 77 percent of their employees were vaccinated in July when the mandate was first announced. That number has now climbed to nearly 97 percent.
Duke Health officials said of those still working toward compliance, more than half have already received one dose of the vaccine. They said the other portion of the group includes employees who have been newly hired or who are on leave. Those groups have up to six weeks to fulfill the requirement.
Dennis Taylor, president of the North Carolina Nurse’s Association, said as an organization they do not oppose or support vaccine requirements.
But Taylor said he is a vaccinated nurse who caught COVID last month and tonight he said he is encouraging others to get the vaccine.
“Personally, I think me having the vaccine is one of the reasons why I recovered so quickly, and why I think it’s so important for other people to get it as soon as they can,” Taylor said.
No one with UNC Health or Duke Health was available to speak on camera on Monday, but they did release the following statements about the vaccine mandates.
We believe that requiring vaccines is in the best interest of public health and is essential for the safety of our patients, teammates, and communities. This vaccine requirement is designed to provide a critical layer of protection for everyone.UNC Health officials
Our core value is caring for our patients, their loved ones, and each other. We adopted our COVID-19 vaccination requirement to demonstrate that our values are not just platitudes, but true objectives for how we provide care. We are extremely proud of our team members who have demonstrated their commitment to these ideals and, in doing so, are also improving the health of our communities.Duke Health officials