~ Press release issued by Valley Health
WINCHESTER, July 19 — Valley Health announced to its 6,300 employees and affiliated physicians that, in a move to improve patient and employee safety, the COVID-19 vaccination will be added to the list of required vaccinations for all employees, medical staff members, and contractors. The standard takes effect immediately for all new employees joining the health system and requires all employees, providers, and contractors to be fully vaccinated by November 1, 2021.
“Since the release of the first COVID-19 vaccine in December, and the CDC’s identification of healthcare workers as being among the highest priority, we have made it convenient for our employees to protect themselves, their families, their coworkers and those we serve,” said Valley Health President and CEO Mark Nantz. “We vigorously encouraged, but did not require, the vaccine in the same way we require vaccination for many other infectious diseases. With a growing body of evidence demonstrating how safe and effective the vaccines are, we believe requiring our staff to take this step to stop the spread of the virus is the most responsible course of action.”
Jeffrey Feit, MD, Valley Health Population and Community Health Officer, has immersed himself in COVID-19 vaccine research and statistics, as well as physician and public sentiment.
“The science is clear: more than 3.5 billion vaccine doses have been administered worldwide. The vaccines have proven to be very safe and highly effective in preventing hospitalizations, death, and spread of the virus. The effects of COVID-19 illness are far more concerning than those of the vaccine,” Feit said.
The new Valley Health requirement takes effect immediately, with the expectation that new employees will either provide evidence of vaccination or complete the vaccination series two weeks prior to beginning work. Employees who are managers or above and medical staff members must provide evidence of prior completion of the vaccination series or receive their first dose by August 16. The balance of unvaccinated staff have until Oct. 1 to receive their first dose and until Nov. 1 to complete the series. Vaccination is provided free of charge at locations throughout Valley Health.
Staff who are unable to receive the vaccine for medical or religious reasons may apply for an exemption, which will be carefully and confidentially evaluated. Team members who remain unvaccinated beyond their assigned deadline and do not have an approved exemption will be subject to suspension or termination.
Iyad Sabbagh, MD, Valley Health’s Chief Physician Executive, acknowledged the extraordinary work done by the staff, nurses and physicians over the course of the pandemic and reaffirmed the organization’s commitment to the safety of its patients and employees.
“Valley Health employees have seen first-hand the devastation COVID-19 has caused people in our region; we’ve lost family, friends and colleagues to this deadly virus,” Sabbagh said. “The scientific evidence, as well as our real-world experiences, show COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. Valley Health is a place of helping and healing, and we strongly believe that this is the right thing to do for our patients, our staff and our community.”
“Every patient, every community member, and every employee must know that safety is our top priority, and when visiting any Valley Health facility they should feel confident we have done all we can to keep them safe,” concluded Nantz.
Valley Health is a nonprofit health system serving a population of more than 500,000 in the Northern Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, the Eastern Panhandle and Potomac Highlands of West Virginia, and western Maryland. The system includes six hospitals, more than 60 medical practices and Urgent Care centers, outpatient rehabilitation and fitness, medical transport, long-term care, and home health.