BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The University of Alabama at Birmingham Health System has announced that employees and people working in its hospitals and clinics must be vaccinated against COVID-19.
“Patients in our hospital and clinical settings are vulnerable, very sick and at higher risk for complications,” said UAB Health System Vice President of Clinical Support Services Sarah Nafziger, MD. “Unvaccinated health care workers put these patients at greater risk, given that their jobs require close interaction with them and others who are immunocompromised. UAB Medicine's Medical Executive Committee has determined the appropriate standard of care requires vaccination – it is the best way to provide a safe environment to care for its patients, as they are uniquely susceptible to Covid-19.”
Nafziger says COVID-19 has threatened UAB Health System’s ability to provide the services necessary for the care of the people of Alabama.
“Extensive data show vaccines are safe and effective, and we have a responsibility as a healthcare entity to provide a safe environment to protect our patients, employees and community and serve as a leader in the fight against COVID-19,” Nafziger said. “If more people don’t get vaccinated, and hospitalizations continue to increase, we will not be able to care for patients who need us; we’ve already decreased important services.”
“Leading medical organizations, including the American Hospital Association, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the Association of American Medical Colleges, have recommended required COVID-19 vaccinations for healthcare workers. Both government and professional organizations emphasize that by being vaccinated, health care workers improve patient safety by decreasing the risk of exposure to COVID-19, which is threatening our ability to provide the services necessary to care for and protect the people of Alabama.”
Healthcare employees at UAB Health System have long been required to be vaccinated against other infectious diseases such as the flu, and COVID-19 vaccinations will be managed in a similar manner. In instances when someone may not be able to get vaccinated due to a disability, medical condition or sincerely held religious belief, the employee can request an exemption. However, those individuals may be subject to additional safety requirements.
The decision to require the COVID-19 vaccine as the appropriate standard of care – as many other medical providers across the country are doing – was made in part because of the high transmissibility of the Delta variant and the resulting surge in unvaccinated inpatient cases.
“Around 90 percent of hospitalized COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated, and we are seeing more and more unvaccinated people having severe illness and dying from this Delta variant – even younger people without pre-existing conditions,” Nafziger said. “The Delta variant is serious, and aggressive measures like vaccine requirements are absolutely critical in stopping further spread. We know the risks of getting COVID far outweigh the minor, short-term risks of getting a vaccine, and the Delta variant is making this call to action more imperative than ever before.”