The University of Maryland Medical System on Wednesday said it will require current and new employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine by Sept.1, according to a news release. The health system has more than 29,500 employees and 4,000 affiliated physicians.
“We follow the science, and the scientific evidence tells us that from a safety and efficacy standpoint, COVID-19 vaccines represent a dramatic accomplishment and a clear pathway out of this pandemic,” Dr. Mohan Suntha, president and CEO of UMMS, said in a statement. “As healthcare professionals, we accept that we hold ourselves to a higher standard and we embrace our mission to devote ourselves to the welfare of those in our care.”
Under the new policy, all employees and partners, including contractors, volunteers and students, who have not been vaccinated will have to undergo weekly COVID-19 testing. Leaders at the manager level and above will have until Aug. 1 to get vaccinated, and employees will have until Sept. 1.
Once a COVID-19 vaccine receives full approval from the FDA, vaccination will become mandatory, with limited exceptions for medical conditions and pregnancy and religious beliefs, the release said. The COVID-19 vaccine policy will mirror the system’s policies on influenza and other infectious diseases, UMMS said. The COVID-19 vaccines only have received emergency use authorization so far.
“It is now clear that vaccination is the only tool at our disposal that is strong enough to end this pandemic and protect our workforce and patients from yet another surge and emerging variants,” Dr. Michelle Gourdine, UMMS’ interim chief medical officer, said in a statement. “As healthcare workers, it is our responsibility to do all we can to protect our patients and colleagues, and that includes getting the COVID-19 vaccine.”
Gourdine pointed out that research scientists at the University of Maryland School of Medicine helped develop and test vaccines during clinical trials.
“We have seen firsthand the benefits of vaccination and we believe it is important for trusted organizations like ours who serve as anchor institutions within our communities to set a clear example,” Gourdine said.
UMMS facilities will continue to follow CDC guidance on masking, personal protective equipment, physical distancing and hand washing, the system said.
The system operates more than 150 locations, including 13 hospitals and nine University of Maryland Urgent Care centers.
UMMS is the latest health system to join a handful of other healthcare providers that are mandating the COVID-19 vaccine for workers. In mid-May, the University of Pennsylvania Health System announced that all employees and clinical staff would be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Sept. 1. Starting July 1, Penn Medicine also will require all new hires to be vaccinated before starting work. And, in April, Houston Methodist told employees that COVID-19 vaccines would be mandatory, and those who did not comply would face termination. Houston Methodist this week suspended 178 workers for two weeks without pay for failing to get fully vaccinated, giving them another chance to either get the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or a single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.