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Novant Pushes Back Deadline For Required Employee COVID Vaccines

Novant Health has pushed back the deadline for its employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Sept. 15 is now the date by which all of the hospital system’s team members must be at least partially vaccinated, according to Dr. David Priest, an infectious disease physician at Novant. Previously, they had until that date to be fully vaccinated. Employees who are unable or choose not to get vaccinated must have an approved medical or religious exemption by the same deadline.

“We are allowing some grace period after Sept. 15 to get the second shot. But you have to have had the first shot before then,” Priest told reporters during a media availability on Tuesday.

At least part of the reason for the extension, according to Priest, is because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave full approval to the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on Aug. 23. Some vaccine skeptics had cited the emergency use authorization as a reason they were hesitant to get the shot.

Priest said that about 87% of Novant employees have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine or obtained an exemption.

Atrium Health has also mandated vaccines for all of its teammates, including remote workers, physicians, medical residents, faculty, fellows, trainees, contractors and volunteers. They are required to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 31. Atrium on Tuesday declined to share what percentage of the hospital system’s had been at least partially vaccinated.

“We are still in the process of gathering medical and religious exemption requests from our teammates, and those will be considered in the coming weeks,” an Atrium spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “As such, it is premature to share any numbers at this time.”

Atrium, Novant and three other North Carolina hospital systems — Cone Health, Duke Health and Wake Forest Baptist — announced in July that they would begin requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for their employees. Six UNC Health hospitals — UNC Medical Center, UNC Rex, UNC Johnston, UNC Chatham, UNC Rockingham and UNC Southeastern — also elected to make vaccines mandatory. The North Carolina Healthcare Association, which has 130 member hospital systems, commended the decision.

“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,” the NCHA said in a news release at the time.

Copyright 2021 WFAE

Claire Donnelly is WFAE's health reporter. She previously worked at NPR member station KGOU in Oklahoma and also interned at WBEZ in Chicago and WAMU in Washington, D.C. She holds a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University and attended college at the University of Virginia, where she majored in Comparative Literture and Spanish. Claire is originally from Richmond, Virginia. In her free time, Claire likes listening to podcasts and trying out new recipes.