Pardee UNC Health Care in Hendersonville on Monday became the first hospital in western North Carolina to make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for all staff, according to a memo sent Aug. 23 to employees by the hospital’s president. The announcement came within hours of formal approval of the Pfizer vaccine by the federal Food and Drug Administration.
Despite a local surge in COVID cases related to the highly contagious delta variant of the virus, vaccinations remained voluntary on Monday for healthcare workers at Mission Hospital in Asheville and AdventHealth Hendersonville. The vast majority of COVID infections, hospitalizations, and deaths nationwide are among unvaccinated people.
James M. Kirby II, president and CEO of Pardee, set a Nov. 12 deadline for all workers to be vaccinated, but his memo did not specify the consequences for noncompliance. “As with the flu vaccine, we will review requests for a medical or religious exemption to this requirement,” he wrote. “Full policy details will be shared by the end of this week.”
Hospitals nationwide are struggling with staffing shortages, especially among nurses and nursing assistants, and hospital administrators elsewhere have said they fear staff will quit if required to get vaccinated.
“We hope that the FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine encourages those who were previously hesitant to decide to get the vaccine,” said Nancy Lindell, director of public and media relations at HCA Healthcare North Carolina Division-Mission Health. “Our infectious disease experts as well as those at the CDC are strongly encouraging vaccination as a critical step to protect individuals from the virus, but at this time our colleagues are not required to be vaccinated for COVID-19.”
“AdventHealth has not mandated vaccines for our team members,” Victoria Dunkle, director of communications and public relations at AdventHealth Hendersonville, told The Watchdog on Monday. “Based on scientific evidence, COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective at reducing the risk of severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19,” she said. — P.L.