Hospital CEOs urged to reconsider vaccine mandates by North Carolina lawmakers

Fifty-five state House Republicans in North Carolina have sent a letter to healthcare CEOs urging them to reexamine their decision to require staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of employment.

In the Aug. 5 letter, the lawmakers cited concerns from constituents, including from women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, and encouraged healthcare executives to reconsider the requirement with more input from workers and flexibility for people with legitimate objections.

The letter was sent to CEOs of Charlotte-based Atrium Health, Greensboro-based Cone Health, Durham-based Duke University Health System, Winston-Salem-based Novant Health, Winston-Salem-based Wake Forest Baptist Health, Chapel Hill-based UNC Health, Greenville-based Vidant Health and Raleigh-based WakeMed Hospitals.

"While we recognize the importance of vaccines and respect the rights of private employers, we strongly encourage you to reexamine this requirement with greater input from employees and flexibility for those who have legitimate concerns," the letter stated.

The lawmakers also contend requiring vaccines as a condition of employment could exacerbate staffing shortages and said it is "simply unfair to force [employees] to choose between their job and taking a vaccine that is only authorized for 'emergency use only.'"

The North Carolina health systems that have decided to require COVID-19 vaccination for employees are among at least dozens of others that have announced mandates since March. This includes other North Carolina organizations, such as Cape Fear Valley Health in Fayetteville and CaroMont Health in Gastonia. Additionally, dozens of national medical, nursing and other healthcare associations, including the American Medical Association, American Nurses Association, American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians, have announced their support for vaccination requirements for healthcare workers.

In a statement Aug. 5, Cynthia Charles, spokesperson for the state's healthcare association, said the health systems requiring vaccination are "confident that they are doing the right thing to protect the safety of their colleagues and patients. They wouldn't ask their teammates to do something that they believe would do harm to them."

She also cited healthcare organizations' confidence in the science and safety behind the vaccines, even without full FDA approval, as well as the organizations' compliance efforts.  

"The North Carolina health systems that have announced these policies are complying with federal and state laws by making available to employees exemptions for medical or religious reasons — an important point left out of the [lawmakers'] letter," said Ms. Charles.

She said health systems have also been talking with employees to address their vaccination questions and concerns and will continue to address individual concerns and provide information.

Read the full letter here

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