ChristianaCare to require staff vaccinations; only system so far to do it

Charlie Megginson Business, Headlines, Health

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Christiana Care will require all employees to be vaccinated.

Delaware’s largest healthcare network has provided employees an ultimatum: be vaccinated against COVID-19 or be fired. 

ChristianaCare, which is also the state’s largest private employer, operates hospitals in Newark, Wilmington and Elkton, Maryland, as well as smaller practices throughout Delaware and Pennsylvania. 

The company will require all employees, residents, students, contracted employees, temporary laborers, volunteers and vendors to receive their first dose of a two-dose vaccine or their single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine by Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2021.

No other healthcare provider in the state has implemented a vaccine mandate.

Bayhealth, TidalHealth and Beebe representatives said their systems encourage vaccines but don’t require them.

Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington “continues to discuss this and will have an update to share soon,” said a spokeswoman in a statement. 

Employees at ChristianaCare who fail to meet the deadline will be terminated, regardless of their position in the company, according to a press release issued Thursday. 

The health network cited the increasing prevalence of the Delta variant as well as a surge in infections among unvaccinated people as their reason for implementing the vaccine mandate. 

In a press release issued Thursday, ChristianaCare’s CEO, Janice Nevin, M.D. said, “The science is clear: Health care workers must be vaccinated in order to protect the health and safety of our patients, our caregivers and our community. We must take this step as expert, caring partners in the health of our neighbors.”

The healthcare chain will only allow exemptions for specific medical conditions and religious beliefs.

TidalHealth, which operates Nanticoke Hospital in Seaford as well as Peninsula Regional Hospital in Salisbury, Maryland, is watching developments, a spokesman said in a statement. 

“While we still strongly encourage everyone to get vaccinated, we are looking at several different factors, including full FDA approval for the vaccine beyond the current emergency use authorization. We understand that full FDA approval will be an important milestone that will further demonstrate the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness,” the spokesman said. 

“While the COVID-19 vaccine is not required at this time, it is currently available for anyone on the TidalHealth team who wants to have a summer of enjoying the protection and freedoms it offers. Additionally, TidalHealth still requires face coverings, worn properly, at any location where our team provides care or testing.”

A spokeswoman for Bayhealth, which operates medical centers in Dover and Milford, said. “At this time, we highly encourage, but do not require, the COVID-19 vaccine. We are regularly reviewing our current practices regarding the vaccine.”

“Beebe Healthcare continues to discuss this option and to look for guidance regarding mandating vaccinations,” said Nancy B. Freebery, an internal marketing communications coordinator. “This may change as the vaccine status moves from emergency use authorized to an FDA approved vaccine, but no decision has been made. Beebe continues to follow CDC and OSHA recommendations for required mask wearing for its employees, patients and visitors.

ChristianaCare’s announcement comes after the Delaware Division of Public Health announced that the COVID-19 Delta variant is now the predominant strain of the coronavirus in Delaware. 

The variant is causing large numbers of infections in states where significant percentages of the population remain unvaccinated. In Delaware, the average number of new daily COVID-19 cases has risen from about 20 per day on June 25 to 90 as of Friday. 

According to the Delaware Department of Health and Human Services, 55.1% of eligible Delawareans have had at least one dose and 49.1% of the population is fully vaccinated. Its dashboard also says that 72.3% of those 18 and older have had at least one shot.

The Centers for Disease Control issued updated guidance Tuesday recommending that vaccinated and unvaccinated Americans wear masks indoors if they’re in areas of substantial or high coronavirus transmission. 

An interactive map published by the CDC shows that Sussex County is characterized as an area with a “substantial level” of COVID-19 transmission. Kent and New Castle Counties remain characterized as “moderate-risk.”

Despite the updated guidance, Gov. John Carney has not announced any updates to the state’s masking or social distancing mandates. 

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