On Wednesday, UCHealth announced it will require all employees, providers, volunteers and partners to be vaccinated for COVID-19 by Oct. 1. The vaccine mandate will increase safety for all patients, visitors and care team members, helping protect them from COVID-19.
“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. To date, nearly 85% of UCHealth’s 26,000 employees have received the vaccine. The health system also is providing a $500 bonus to any employee who is fully vaccinated by Aug. 22.
The vaccine requirement comes as the highly contagious COVID-19 delta variant spreads rapidly across the nation, leading to increasing cases of the disease. UCHealth hospitals are now caring for about 85 hospitalized patients with COVID-19, an increase from numbers in early June.
Dr. Michelle Barron, senior medical director of infection prevention for UCHealth, said the vast majority of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 have been unvaccinated. “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.”
About 340 million vaccine doses have now been administered across the nation, and 3.8 billion doses have been provided to people around the world.
UCHealth employees will have the option of receiving 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. 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. Those not in compliance with the vaccine policy could face termination.