Texas Health Resources has instituted a mandatory COVID-19 vaccine policy requiring employees to get fully vaccinated by Sept. 10, according to a Friday news release.
In the release, the Arlington-based health system likened the policy to its flu vaccine mandate. The requirement will apply to all employees, including physicians and advanced practice providers on the medical staffs, students, vendors and contractors who work at any Texas Health Resources location. That includes Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Denton, which had more than 1,000 employees as of late 2020.
“The vaccines are the best infection prevention tool we have,” Texas Health Resources CEO Barclay Berdan said in an accompanying video. “We are seeing our numbers of COVID-positive patients increase as the delta variant continues to spread, and the delta variant is 50% more transmissible than the original COVID-19 virus.”
Berdan said about 70% of Texas Health’s current employees are already vaccinated. The remaining employees have six weeks to get fully vaccinated, either with two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna shots or with one dose of the Johnson & Johnson shot.
An internal email sent to employees Friday that was reviewed by the Denton Record-Chronicle laid out a more concrete timeline for the policy. Employees have until Aug. 13 to submit a request for a medical or religious exemption, and come Aug. 16, new hires will need to show proof of receiving at least the first dose of the vaccine.
By Sept. 10, being fully vaccinated or having an approved exemption is required. If an employee has not been vaccinated or has received only one dose of the Pfizer or Moderna shot, that employee will be suspended without pay effective Sept. 11. For employees with exemptions, mandatory COVID-19 testing will begin that day, as well.
On Oct. 11, any suspended employees will be terminated if they are not fully vaccinated. Additionally, Texas Health’s flu vaccine window will open Sept. 13, requiring employees, new hires and contractors to have the flu shot by Oct. 29 as a condition of employment.
“The vaccine is safe, it works, and it’s a step we can take to protect our community and each other,” the email reads. “Requiring vaccinations is the responsible step forward.”
Other North Texas health care systems including Baylor Scott & White Health and Methodist Health System have also implemented vaccine mandates amid the recent surge in cases. Denton County Public Health reported adult ICU occupancy in the county’s hospitals had reached 95.5% by Thursday afternoon, with 64 beds occupied and three available.