PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — The organization that represents 110 Virginia hospitals and 26 health delivery systems across the commonwealth has changed its policy guidance in support of requiring the vaccine for health care workers.
The Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association originally “strongly encouraged” all Virginians, and particularly health care workers, to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
Now they’d like to see requirements to help avoid unnecessary illness and death, as coronavirus cases rise again in Virginia and other areas of the country — with nearly all new deaths now coming in unvaccinated people, health officials say.
The vaccines are proving to still be extremely effective at preventing illness and death, including against the more contagious delta variant.
“The scientific evidence clearly demonstrates that the COVID-19 vaccines prevent people from
becoming seriously ill, requiring hospitalization, or dying from the virus, as well as spreading it
to others. Virginia Department of Health data shows that since late January when vaccines first
became available to the general public in the Commonwealth, 99.4 percent of cases, 99 percent
of hospitalizations, and 99.3 percent of deaths have occurred in people who have not been
More than 30,000 health care workers have been sickened with COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, VDH data shows, and 59 died.
VHHA says their guidance comes after many other organizations representing health professionals called for COVID-19 vaccine requirements.
“Many hospitals and health systems across the country have begun implementing COVID-19 vaccine requirements. Hospitals and health systems currently require vaccines against a variety of other diseases and viruses.”
We reached out to local health care systems and found none are requiring it for employees but all are strongly encouraging it.
Sentara’s Vice President and Chief Physician Executive, Dr. Jordan Asher said, “Sentara Healthcare agrees with VHHA that COVID-19 vaccines have proven to be effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19, as well as severe illness, hospitalization and death due to the virus. At this time and with continued evaluation, COVID-19 vaccination remains voluntary for Sentara employees. We strongly encourage our team members as well as all community members who are eligible and able to get vaccinated. Sentara Healthcare will continue to do our part in educating and vaccinating our employees and the communities we serve.”
Chesapeake Regional Healthcare President & CEO Reese Jackson told WAVY, “In addition to its other practices to secure a safe and healing environment, Chesapeake Regional Healthcare actively encourages its employees to be vaccinated and will continue to do so going forward.”
Emma Swann, Director of Communications for Bon Secours, told us, “Bon Secours strongly encourages associates to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. We are consistently reviewing local, state and national guidelines. We continue to provide robust information and resources for our associates to inform their decision making process. Our COVID-19 vaccine clinics are ongoing, and we are seeing strong interest in receiving the vaccine from our associates.”
Jesse Goodrich, vice president of human resources, Riverside Health System said, “Our biggest priority continues to be the safety and health of our team, our patients and our community. We continue to provide education and access in order to provide the vaccine. We will continue to work closely with the recommendations from the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association regarding vaccination of for those working within healthcare.”
Some Virginia hospitals have already said they’ll require employees to get vaccinated, including those in Northern Virginia’s Inova Health System. The deadline for vaccinations there will be Sept. 1. Hospital systems in Maryland and Washington, D.C. have also announced vaccine requirements.
“Hospital and health system employee vaccination against COVID-19 will maintain the longterm ability of our health care system to respond to the pandemic, to safely care for patients by protecting them from infection, and to mitigate the spread of the virus within health care facilities and among clinicians, patients, and their families and friends. Implementing COVID-19 vaccine requirements will help accomplish these goals, while protecting the patients and communities served by our hospitals and health systems.”
As of July 19, 70.9% of Virginian adults had at least one dose of vaccine, with 64.2% fully vaccinated. 59% of the total population has at least one dose, with 53.1% fully vaccinated. Virginia’s averaging about 11,000 new doses per day, VDH data shows.
68.2% of American adults have at least one dose, CDC data shows.
Meanwhile at the national level, the White House says it’s trying to combat vaccine disinformation coming from right-wing media, some Republican lawmakers and social media platforms such as Facebook.
The Biden administration pushed back against those who politicized an idea to go door-to-door encouraging people to get vaccinated, which Press Secretary Jen Psaki would be mostly done by trusted community members such as clergy and other volunteers.
“For those individuals, organizations that are feeding misinformation and trying to mischaracterize this type of trusted-messenger work, I believe you are doing a disservice to the country and to the doctors, the faith leaders, community leaders and others who are working to get people vaccinated, save lives and help end this pandemic,” said White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients. “This is important work that’s leading to more vaccinations. And it’s done by people who care about the health of their family, friends and neighbors.”