Starting in August, Frederick Health will require all new employees, medical staff members and volunteers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 unless they have a medical or religious exemption, the health care system announced late Tuesday afternoon.
Existing Frederick Health staff members who have not been vaccinated by Sept. 1 — including those who have medical or religious exemptions and those who are waiting until the U.S. Food and Drug Administration grants the vaccines' full approval — will be required to follow “enhanced infection control procedures,” including wearing a mask, following social distancing guidelines and providing a negative COVID-19 test result to their supervisor every two weeks, according to a news release from the health care system.
“Frederick Health’s highest obligation is to the safety, health, and welfare of our most vulnerable patients,” Tom Kleinhanzl, president and CEO of Frederick Health, said in the release. “Vaccines are the best tool to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and help bring a swift end to this pandemic.”
As of Tuesday, about 73 percent of the system’s 3,700 employees were fully vaccinated, according to hospital officials. About 53 percent of the county population was fully vaccinated as of the same date, according to county health data.
The news from Frederick Health comes after some of Maryland’s largest hospitals and health systems announced last week that their employees would be required to be vaccinated by the fall.
On June 9, the Maryland Hospital Association — which advocates for Maryland’s 60 nonprofit hospitals and health systems — announced that its members had each agreed to set a date after which vaccination against COVID-19 would be a “condition of employment.”
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced in May that employers would not be violating federal laws if they required their employees to get vaccinated, so long as they made “reasonable accommodations” for workers who didn’t get the shot because of religious beliefs, a disability or pregnancy.
According to Tuesday’s release from Frederick Health, those who cannot receive the COVID-19 vaccine due to medical or religious reasons will be able to apply for an annual exemption, similar to their current opportunity to do so for the influenza vaccine. Those delaying vaccination until full FDA approval will also be allowed to do so as long as they follow the infection control guidelines.
Since the FDA issued emergency use authorizations for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in December — and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in February — more than 145 million Americans have been vaccinated.