Hundreds of UNC, Duke hospital employees get shot within a week of vaccine mandate announcement

Coronavirus

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – It’s been 11 days since the Duke University Health System and several UNC Health hospitals announced that their employees must get the COVID-19 vaccine by Sept. 21 or they could lose their jobs.

On Monday, UNC Health officials said 650 of their employees had gotten a vaccine since the mandate was announced on July 22.

Duke Health officials said 470 of its employees had received their first dose of the vaccine within the last week.

The Department of Veterans Affairs announced on July 26 that medical staff at its health facilities will also be required to get the shot within eight weeks.

Officials with the Durham VA Medical Center said prior to the announcement of the mandate that they were vaccinating five to eight employees per week. But now officials said 30 to 39 of their employees have been receiving the COVID-19 vaccine per week.

The Durham VA Medical Center did not have numbers on how many total employees are vaccinated, but Duke Health said 23 percent of its employees are unvaccinated. UNC Health said 28 percent of its employees were not fully vaccinated.

“This is really about safety, and the tremendous responsibility we have as healthcare providers in caring for our community,” said Katie Galbraith, the president of Duke Regional Hospital.

The announcement by these hospitals has been met by opposition as some hospital employees protested the vaccine mandate outside of Duke University Hospital on Friday morning.

“Everyone has the right to refuse,” said Kasie Barrett, an employee of Duke Health.

While UNC Health said it has had 650 of its employees get vaccinated within the first week of announcing the mandate, health officials said in an email that UNC Health still could have as many as 10,000 employees who are still not fully vaccinated.

But UNC Health officials said there is a chance some of these employees may have been vaccinated outside of the UNC Health system. They are still checking on these vaccination statuses.

Dennis Taylor, president of the North Carolina Nurses Association, said the association does not support the vaccine requirements made by the local hospitals.

Taylor said he’s talked to members of their association who have different opinions on the matter.

“To tell you the truth, I don’t know how effective the vaccine mandate will be,” Taylor said. “Most of the people I talk to support the vaccine and support getting it. However, we have some members who are very adamant, as well, that they’re not going to get it.”

WakeMed sent a statement to CBS 17 that said it will soon require COVID-19 vaccinations for employees and providers. Officials said the specific details and timing are still being finalized, but they said the COVID-19 vaccine program will be very similar to WakeMed’s annual flu program.

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