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UW Health mandates COVID-19 vaccines for employees

The health system likened the new restriction to its extant policy of requiring them to have received a standard flu vaccine.
Megan LeClair-Netzel, manager for UW Health’s employee health services gives first vaccines to...
Megan LeClair-Netzel, manager for UW Health’s employee health services gives first vaccines to UW Health employees.(UW Health/John Maniaci)
Published: Aug. 4, 2021 at 8:31 AM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - The region’s largest healthcare system will mandate its health care providers and staff members get vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus. UW Health announced the new protocol Wednesday, informing those affected that, if they are not vaccinated yet, they will have until October 1 to receive their first shot.

“Today we are taking a next important step to vaccinate our community because these vaccines are the most powerful tool we have in our efforts to end this long pandemic,” UW Health’s Chief Quality Officer Dr. Jeffrey Pohoff declared.

The health system likened the new restriction to its extant policy of requiring them to have received a standard flu vaccine.

Pothoff noted approximately 9 in 10 staff members are already protected against coronavirus, but he added there is still room for further improvement. Plus, he argued, getting vaccinated sends a good message to patients and the community at large.

“These vaccines are safe; they are effective at preventing transmission; and for those who do contract COVID-19, they reduce the possibility of serious illness, hospitalizations or even death,” Pothof said. He cited new numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that show the highly contagious version of the virus known as the Delta variant is responsible for 80 percent of recent deaths.

Approximately 15,000 people are employed by UW Health, which, based on its estimate that 90 percent of them have been vaccinated, leaves around 1,500 staff members who will be directly affected by this new rule. A spokesperson for UW Health told NBC15 News that failure to comply with the mandate could lead to disciplinary action, including unpaid leave or termination.

UW Health already provides vaccinations for staff as well as the general public. In addition to having their first dose of the vaccine by October, those who opt for either the Moderna or Pfizer version will need to have their second dose by the end of the month. Exemptions will be made for those who have a medical condition that prevents them from receiving the vaccine or a religious conviction against doing so.

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