A university hospital in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, is no longer requiring its employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19 — an about-face from the position the medical center held just one month ago.
Officials with the University of Alabama said they are reversing the policy as they await details from the federal government following President Joe Biden’s edict mandating all employers with more than 100 staff members to require inoculation against the coronavirus, WBRC-TV reported.
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Defending the decision, Alabama Hospital Association President Dr. Ron Williamson said most hospitals in the region are not requiring the shots right now, noting the UAB center was one of the few to mandate vaccination.
Hospital staff, he said, have high vaccination rates, regardless, with anywhere from 50% to 80% of workers fully inoculated against COVID-19, depending on the hospital.
While vaccination does help ease staffing problems, Williamson said that doesn’t necessarily mean a hospital-level mandate is required. UAB is still offering $400 bonuses, though, to employees who get vaccinated against the virus.
“It’s not a small issue if we have unvaccinated employees,” he told the local news outlet. “Hospitals have successfully navigated the waters of getting people vaccinated and, for the most part, they have been able to do it without mandates.”
Based on a statement from UAB, it appears as if the central impetus for the hospital’s decision to remove the requirement is because a federal mandate is likely forthcoming:
The UAB Health System’s policy requiring COVID vaccines for its workers was implemented in August, prior to the announcement of forthcoming federal directives. President Biden issued an executive order Sept. 9 indicating that federal rules and regulations will be issued in the coming weeks that will require COVID vaccines for workers at health care facilities that receive Medicare or Medicaid dollars. Because UAB Health System must follow federal law, UAB Health System will remove its vaccine policy at this time. UAB Health System will wait for the detailed federal guidance to develop a replacement vaccine policy in order to ensure full compliance with federal law. The safety of our patients, employees, friends, and families is of the utmost importance. Because vaccines are safe, effective, and a critical tool to end the pandemic, and because it is expected that federal guidelines will require the vaccine, we continue to strongly encourage those who have not been vaccinated to get a free COVID vaccine as soon as possible. The voluntary $400 incentive payment available to vaccinated employees who want it remains available.
Other hospital systems around the country continue to require employee vaccination against COVID-19.
One system in central Virginia, Centra Health, has faced some backlash for telling its workers they must be fully inoculated against the virus by Nov. 1 or face a two-week suspension before being fired, according to WSLS-TV.
“I don’t support what they’re doing to these amazing people that stood on the frontline with no vaccine all last year,” said Elizabeth Corrales, who opposes the requirement. “We just want them to know that ‘no’ does mean ‘no.’ ‘No’ is a complete sentence — you don’t have to give explanations. You should have a right to just say, ‘No,’ and that be the end of it.”
Hospitals are not the only employers facing pushback for mandating vaccination.
Some employees at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, are also protesting the entertainment company for requiring its workers to take the shots.
Last week, 16-year cast member Nick Caturano organized a demonstration at the company’s shopping complex, Disney Springs, where more than 30 Disney employees protested.
“People are free to get this vaccine if they feel it’s going to be the best thing for them,” he said, “but to force people to get the vaccine, that’s another story.”
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