GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – Fifty-five North Carolina House Republicans penned a letter to health system executives saying the recent COVID-19 vaccine mandate needs to be reevaluated.

Click here to read the letter

The letter is addressed to the CEOs of systems like Vidant Health, UNC Health, Duke University Health Systems and others. The lawmakers said they have heard from “countless constituents” who said they were blindsided by the mandate.

In late July, health care systems across the state announced staff members must be vaccinated against COVID-19 by the fall or they would be terminated. Many employees at these institutions have already been vaccinated.

For example, out of the 11,000 people who work at Duke University Health Systems, 77 percent are vaccinated.

“Mandates send the wrong message and people should have a personal choice,” said Rep. Chris Humphrey.

The lawmakers said they recognize the importance of vaccines but said more input is needed from employees and flexibility for those who have “legitimate objections.”

“From our conversations with constituents who work at these facilities, we feel this was a rushed and hasty decision that does not include feedback and consideration of the employees and staff,” the letter says.

Another issue the lawmakers bring up is the already existing staffing shortages at these healthcare facilities and what the impact of terminating employees over the mandate could be.

Vidant Health CEO Dr. Mike Waldrum received the letter. He said he appreciated the feedback from state legislatures, but Vidant stands by its decision to mandate the vaccine.

“We made our decision listening and respecting our team members and based on science and data and what our professional societies and our own professionals tell us is the right thing to do to make sure we create that safe environment,” said Waldrum.

“This decision to terminate nurses and other healthcare professionals who do not take the vaccine will only exacerbate the problem. In certain instances, a hospital could potentially lose 30% of its workforce due to vaccine mandates,” the letter says.

The North Carolina Healthcare Association said it “strongly supports” the mandate.

“Hospital and health system employee vaccination against COVID-19 is vital to safely care for patients by protecting them from infection, and to mitigate the spread of the virus within healthcare facilities and among clinicians, patients and their families and friends,” NCHA said.

The American Nurses Association also said it supports mandating the vaccine for nurses and other health care workers. In a letter announcing its stance, the ANA wrote, “Nurses have a professional and ethical obligation to model the same standards they provide to prescribe to patients.”

The letter is signed by the following Republicans:

Rep. Jay Adams
Rep. Dean Arp
Rep. John Bell
Rep. Hugh Blackwell
Rep. Jamie Boles
Rep. John Bradford
Rep. Mark Brody
Rep. Dana Bumgardner
Rep. Mike Clampitt
Rep. George Cleveland
Rep. Jimmy Dixon
Rep. Jeffrey Elmore
Rep. Dudley Greene
Rep. Ed Goodwin
Rep. Destin Hall
Rep. Kyle Hall
Rep. Bobby Hanig
Rep. Jon Hardister
Rep. Kelly Hastings
Rep. Chris Humphrey
Rep. Pat Hurley
Rep. Frank Iler
Rep. Jake Johnson
Rep. Brenden Jones
Rep. Keith Kidwell
Rep. Pat McElraft
Rep. Jeff McNeely
Rep. Allen McNeill

Rep. Charlie Miller
Rep. Grey Mills
Rep. Tim Moffitt
Rep. Ben Moss
Rep. Erin P. Paré
Rep. Howard Penny
Rep. Ray Pickett
Rep. Larry Pittman
Rep. Mark Pless
Rep. Larry Potts
Rep. Dennis Riddell
Rep. David Rogers
Rep. Jason Saine
Rep. Wayne Sasser
Rep. Phil Shepard
Rep. Carson Smith
Rep. Sarah Stevens
Rep. Larry Strickland
Rep. John Szoka
Rep. Steve Tyson
Rep. Harry Warren
Rep. Sam Watford
Rep. Diane Wheatley
Rep. Donna White
Rep. David Willis
Rep. Matthew Winslow
Rep. Jeff Zenger