West Virginia’s largest private employer issues worker vaccine mandate

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The West Virginia University Health System, the state’s largest private employer, announced Monday that it will require all employees to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus by Oct. 31 as COVID-19 cases continue to grow exponentially statewide.

The mandate applies to workers at all of the WVU Health System’s hospitals and clinics in West Virginia, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia, and staff working remotely at home or onsite. The health system includes 20 hospitals and five health institutes and has more than 1,000 medical staff and 15,000 employees.

The move came after the West Virginia Hospital Association announced its support for hospital and health system employee vaccination requirements. And earlier Monday, the U.S. gave full approval to Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.

“We’re doing this because it is the right thing to do,” Albert L. Wright Jr., president and CEO of the WVU Health System, said in a statement.

Wright said the health system has “a higher obligation to our patients as well as to each other. I want WVU Medicine hospitals and clinics to be as safe as possible for our patients and staff. A fully vaccinated workforce will help ensure that safety.”

More than 60% of the health system’s workforce has been vaccinated for the virus, the statement said. Statewide, about 58% of residents age 12 and up are fully vaccinated.

Wright said the number of unvaccinated staff missing work due to COVID-19 is increasing “and is starting to have a material impact on our patient care mission.”

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