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WVU Medicine updates vaccine mandate per nationwide CMS ruling

MORGANTOWN — The COVID-19 vaccination mandate for WVU Medicine employees is coming — 135 days later than initially expected.

In a Friday message to employees, WVU Health System President and CEO Albert Wright updated the vaccine policy in light of the Supreme Court’s recent decision to uphold the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) requirement that all health care providers participating in the Medicare and Medicaid program vaccinate their employees.

Per Wright’s explanation, all healthcare workers at WVU Medicine facilities in West Virginia and Ohio must be fully vaccinated, or have been granted a medical or religious exemption, by March 15. WVU Medicine employees in Pennsylvania and Maryland must be fully vaccinated or exempted by Feb. 28.

“To be considered fully vaccinated, an employee or health care worker needs to have received two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or one dose of the J&J vaccine. Booster shots are strongly encouraged but not a requirement at this time,” Wright explained.

Angela Jones-Knopf, corporate director of media relations and public affairs for WVU Medicine, said every hospital and health system nationwide must follow the CMS requirement.

She also points out that 97% of the health system’s staff are already fully vaccinated.

New hires starting after the above dates must be fully vaccinated before they can begin work. Prior to that, new hires will need at least one dose of the vaccine before their start date.

Wright recommends “any current employee who does not have an approved exemption and is unvaccinated receive at least one dose of the vaccine by Feb. 14, 2022; this will allow those receiving the two-dose vaccine to be fully vaccinated by March 15, 2022.”

Employees and new hires who are not fully vaccinated, and employees who have been granted an exemption, are required to wear a fit-tested, NIOSH-approved N95 mask or higher-level respirator at all times while at work.

Last August, following the FDA’s full approval of the Pfizer vaccine and guidance put forward by the West Virginia Hospital Association, both WVU Medicine and Mon Health System announced vaccine mandates for employees.

WVU Medicine set an initial deadline of Oct. 31. Mon Health mandated vaccinations by Nov. 1. Both systems ultimately delayed implementation of the mandates.

A message left seeking information from Mon Health System was not returned in time for this report.

TWEET @DominionPostWV