Duke Health, UNC among health systems to require COVID-19 vaccine for all workers

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Duke University Health System and several UNC hospitals are among health systems that will require all workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccination, according to a statement released Thursday.

The decision to require the vaccine comes following the North Carolina Healthcare Association’s announcement supporting required vaccinations for health care workers.

“If we hadn’t seen the emergence of more variants or more contagious versions like the Delta variant, then it might not have been necessary,” said Dr. Thomas Owens, M.D., president of Duke University Hospital and sr. vice president of DUHS.

According to the North Carolina Healthcare Association announcement, the health systems to require employees to be vaccinated include Atrium Health, Cone Health, Duke University Health System, Novant Health, Wake Forest Baptist Health and the following UNC Health hospitals – UNC Medical Center, UNC Rex, UNC Johnston, UNC Chatham, UNC Rockingham and UNC Southeastern.

Not included on this list is both WakeMed and Cape Fear Valley Health.

WakeMed released this statement to CBS17 on Thursday, saying:

“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. In addition, 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 individuals – can do this is through vaccination.

With this in mind, we anticipate that WakeMed will require vaccination of all employees, providers and volunteers in the near future. We do not have a firm timeline at this point — work is now underway to determine what this requirement will look like, including the process, data collection and more.”

Cape Fear Valley Health also released a statement:

“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.”

Duke Health notified employees of the requirement on Thursday.

“We’ve seen an uptick in hospitalizations locally, regionally, nationally, and, an increased rate of infections among team members. So, all of those signals put together suggested to us that it was the right time,” explained Owens.

Right now, there are 48 COVID patients with the Duke Heath System. That’s double from two weeks ago.

Out of the 11,000 people who work at the hospital, 77 percent have already voluntarily got the vaccine.

Owens said it’s progress, but not enough to protect patients from the virus.

“Healthcare workers for quite some time have had expectations around things they do to keep their patients safe. It’s part of our calling in health care,” said Owens.

“We have lost far too many of community members to COVID and I’m worried we will lose more without further efforts to vaccinate our population,” he mentioned.

According to the notice, all team members have to receive and show documentation of their completed COVID-19 vaccinations by Sept. 21.

The vaccine requirement applies to everyone who works or trains at Duke University Health Systems, including team members, providers, volunteers, students/learners, residents, those who are job shadowing and temporary employees.

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