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Atrium, Novant Health requiring all employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19

The hospital systems say receiving the vaccine is an essential weapon in the fight against COVID-19.
Published: Jul. 22, 2021 at 2:58 PM EDT|Updated: 22 hours ago
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Two of the biggest healthcare systems in Charlotte are now requiring all of their employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Atrium Health and Novant Health both say they will be requiring their team members to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and be fully vaccinated against the virus.

Atrium provided this statement to WBTV Thursday.

“We have started communicating to all of our teammates (including remote workers, physicians, medical residents, faculty, fellows, trainees, contractors, students/visiting students, members of the medical staff, temporary workers and volunteer staff) that they must be fully vaccinated or have an approved medical or religious exemption,” the statement read.

The hospital system says there is an urgent need for their team members to be fully vaccinated as the new, more potent Delta variant continues to spread locally and throughout the state.

“We view it as essential that each of our teammates receive their vaccination to protect themselves, their families and the people in their care,” the Atrium Health statement continues.

The hospital system says new variants of COVID-19 are contributing to a 200% increase in hospitalizations – and, among their patients, 99% of those hospitalized in recent weeks have been those who are unvaccinated.

“By making the vaccine mandatory for our teammates, Atrium Health, including Wake Forest Baptist Health and Atrium Health Navicent, and along with multiple other health systems across the region, are taking reasonable steps to make sure that our teammates – many of whom remain on the frontlines, interacting directly with people who have COVID – are protected and available to care for members of the community as we deal with the next phases of the pandemic,” Atrium’s statement read.

The hospital system says this should not be viewed any differently than their requirement for employees to get an annual flu shot, as well as be vaccinated for measles, chicken pox and other infectious diseases.

Novant also provided a statement to WBTV on Thursday about their vaccine requirements.

“We are proud to be among the first to implement this program alongside other healthcare systems in the region who agree that a mandatory vaccine program is in the best interest of public health and a necessary step to ensure the safety of our patients, team members and communities,” the Novant Health statement read.

Novant Health says employees will have until Sept. 15 to complete the vaccination process. Those requiring a medical or faith-based exemption must submit an exemption request by Aug. 26.\

“We are passionate about health equity and know that vaccinating all of our team members, in addition to providing access to COVID-19 vaccines to those in historically marginalized communities, will help us end the pandemic for all,” the statement continued.

One Atrium Health employee who wished to remain anonymous told WBTV, she feels the vaccine is still too new and she is not comfortable getting it yet. She feels employees should have a choice and not be required to get the vaccine if they don’t want to.

“If you want to be vaccinated that’s a personal decision but don’t make, you shouldn’t make anyone have to choose between a shot and a job. That’s not fair,” the person said.

A different Atrium Health employee who wished to remain anonymous said as a pregnant and breastfeeding mother, she isn’t comfortable getting the vaccine yet either.

“As a breastfeeding mother, this mandate concerns me,” she said. “The safety of all current COVID-19 vaccines in lactating people, the effects of vaccination on a breastfed baby, & the effects on milk production or excretion have not been studied. Neither myself or my colleagues should be forced to be a part of a clinical trial without our explicit informed consent, which gives us the right to choose.”

For Cat Williams, a patient, she says healthcare workers visit her every day and she’s concerned.

She’s immunocompromised and has cystic fibrosis and just got a double lung transplant last December.

“They don’t require the nurses to be vaccinated and they won’t tell you their status, so here I am isolating doing all the right things and even at home I’m not safe from potentially having COVID come into my house,” Williams said.

She says the mandates announced Thursday gave her comfort, just in knowing there is that extra vaccination precaution.

“It’s two things - one it’s a matter of workplace safety for themselves so that they can go to work and be safe. It’s also for patient safety because like you said they’re dealing with the most vulnerable people,” Williams said.

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