UCHealth to require COVID-19 vaccination for all employees

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Tamera Dunseth Rosenbaum, chief nursing officer for UCHealth Memorial Hospital, delivers the first COVID-19 vaccine to Jeremy Hulsker, a charge nurse at Memorial in December, 2020. Photo by Chuck Bigger for UCHealth.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — UCHealth employees, providers, volunteers and partners will soon be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The hospital made the announcement Wednesday and gave workers a final deadline of Oct. 1 but said it would give a $500 bonus to any employee who is fully vaccinated by Aug. 22.

According to the hospital, the mandate will increase safety for patients, visitors and care team members.

“After fighting COVID-19 for more than a year, and as the dangerous delta variant has become the dominant strain in Colorado and elsewhere, it is clear that vaccination against this disease is essential to protect our employees, along with our patients and visitors,” said Elizabeth Concordia, president and CEO of UCHealth. “We know that vaccination will also improve health and safety within the communities UCHealth serves, and we want to set an example and help bring an end to this pandemic.”

The policy applies to all employees, medical staff, trainees, volunteers, vendors, medical students and contract staff. According to UCHealth, nearly 85% of its 26,000 employees have received the vaccine.

UCHealth employees have the option to receive the vaccine of their choice, which includes two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or one dose of the J&J vaccine. Exemptions will be granted only for valid medical or religious reasons.

“It’s a great example for the community to show as a business as an entity you want to make sure everyone is healthy and we want this pandemic to be over,” said Dr. Michelle Barron, Senior Medical Director of Infection Prevention for UCHealth.

Anyone who receives an exemption will be required to wear a mask at all times in UCHealth facilities and be tested weekly for COVID-19. According to the hospital, those who do not comply with the vaccine policy will face termination.

“Those individuals will be required to mask at all times regardless of what else may be allowed,” said Barron.

Currently, UCHealth hospitals are caring for about 85 hospitalized patients with COVID-19, which they say, is an increase from numbers in early June.

“The best way to stay safe from COVID-19 is to get vaccinated as soon as possible,” she said. “The vaccines have been proven to be safe and highly effective in preventing severe illness and hospitalization, even from the delta variant. About 94% of our hospitalized patients are unvaccinated, and even for fully vaccinated people who get sick, the vaccine reduces the severity of the illness. Vaccinated people are less likely to need ICU-level care or to die even if they need hospitalization.”

In its announcement, the hospital said about 340 million vaccine doses have been administered across the nation, and 3.8 billion doses have been provided to people around the world.

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