Employees of Anne Arundel Medical Center will be required to get vaccinated against COVID-19 by October, the hospital’s parent company announced Monday.
Luminis Heath, which includes the hospital in Annapolis as well as Doctors Community Hospital in Lanham, said it was “following science” and addressing the heightened risk of illness that comes from mutated versions of the coronavirus spreading across the country. Staff must receive a COVID-19 vaccine by Oct. 1 with exceptions made for medical and religious reasons, the hospital said.
Employees with exceptions will be tested for COVID-19 on a regular basis, also starting in October, when the hospital requires staff to receive a seasonal flu vaccine.
In June, the Maryland Hospital Association announced its 60 hospital members would require all employees and clinical team members to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by a deadline set by each individual health system or hospital. AAMC said in June it agreed with the association’s requirement but would hold off making vaccines a condition of employment until the U.S. Food and Drug Administration upgraded the status of the vaccine from emergency use authorization to “full and unconditional approval.”
Experts say the emergency authorized vaccines are still highly effective at preventing serious illness and death from the more contagious delta variant of the virus that is causing infection rates to surge in the United States and Maryland.
Data gathered from health care workers, first responders and essential workers in the U.S. found Pfizer and Moderna’s two-dose vaccines are 90% effective in protecting individuals against infections. Pfizer and Moderna asked the FDA in May and June to grant full approval for the vaccine, and Johnson & Johnson is expected to request the same for its one-shot vaccine later this year.
It could take months before the FDA grants full approval, a process that consists of analyzing at least six months of clinical data and inspecting numerous manufacturing facilities. Emergency use authorization accelerates that process, while still meeting certain standards, during public health crises to make vaccines or drugs available to treat or protect the public against illness.
AAMC’s COVID-19 vaccine requirement aligns with Luminis Health’s flu vaccine policy as a condition of employment for staff, the hospital said. A hospital spokesperson said Luminis Heath plans to “support our workforce with empathy and compassion, while educating our teammates, listen to and addressing their concerns, and dispelling myths.”
“The COVID-19 vaccine clearly works,” the hospital’s statement continues. “The vaccine is out best shot at ending this pandemic.”
Luminis Health employs around 9,000 people between its two hospitals, including medical staff and volunteers. As of July, 75% of staff and volunteers have received a COVID-19 vaccine.
Baltimore Washington Medical Center in Glen Burnie said in June it is adopting the Maryland Hospital Association policy along with the rest of its parent company, the University of Maryland Medical System. UMMS, the state’s largest hospital network, was among the first to set dates requiring workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of the summer on Sept. 1.
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“As health care professionals, we accept that we hold ourselves to a higher standard and we embrace our mission to devote ourselves to the welfare of those in our care,” Dr. Mohan Suntha, president and CEO of UMMS said in a statement. “COVID-19 vaccines are by far the best way to stop the spread of the virus, and given our ethical obligation to our patients, we must take every appropriate measure to keep our hospitals and other locations as safe as possible.”