UCHealth requires COVID-19 vaccines for all employees

Marilyn Schaefer, a respiratory therapy supervisor at UCHealth Greeley Hospital, is one of the first…

Marilyn Schaefer, a respiratory therapy supervisor at UCHealth Greeley Hospital, is one of the first in Colorado to get the COVID-19 vaccine. UCHealth is now requiring vaccines for employees. Photo by Joel Blocker, for UCHealth.

Throughout the pandemic and always, UCHealth’s top priority is keeping patients, employees and visitors safe.

In the last month, the number of patients hospitalized at UCHealth’s 12 hospitals has doubled. Nearly all of the patients have been infected with the delta variant. Of those in the hospitals for COVID-19, the vast majority are unvaccinated. Those who have been vaccinated and are in the hospital are less likely to be in the ICU.

The data is clear. Vaccines work. They protect people from an ugly illness that has claimed more than 618,000 lives in the United States and infected more than 36.5 million people.

In late July, UCHealth joined many health care organizations across the nation in requiring vaccines for all staff and providers. By Oct. 1, everyone who works in UCHealth locations are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or receive an approved exemption as part of UCHealth’s continued commitment to protect the safety and health of our patients, employees, visitors – and communities.

Across the nation, momentum for employee vaccination is growing. The U.S. military and some of our nation’s most well-known brands: United and Frontier airlines, Walmart, Google and Walgreens, to name a few, are requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for employees.

UCHealth employee takes a selfie while she gets her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in December 2020.
Alyssa Golinvauz, who works in the ICU at UCHealth Medical Center of the Rockies, takes a selfie while getting the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on Monday, December 14, 2020, at UCHealth Poudre Valley Hospital. UCHealth is now requiring vaccines for employees. Photo by Joel Blocker, for UCHealth.

In the coming weeks, the Food and Drug Administration is expected to fully approve COVID-19 vaccines, which could persuade more Americans to become fully vaccinated and help to end a pandemic that is now in its 18th month.

“We know that vaccinations improve health and safety in the communities UCHealth serves, and we want to set an example and help bring an end to this pandemic,” said Elizabeth Concordia, president and CEO of UCHealth.

At UCHealth, employees, medical staff, trainees, volunteers, vendors, medical students and contract staff are all required to be vaccinated. To date, about 90% of UCHealth’s 26,000 employees have been vaccinated.

Dr. Michelle Barron, senior medical director of infection prevention for UCHealth, said the vast majority of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 have been unvaccinated.

“The best way to stay safe from COVID-19 is to get vaccinated as soon as possible,” she said. “The vaccines have been proven to be safe and highly effective in preventing severe illness and hospitalization, even from the delta variant. For fully vaccinated people who get sick, the vaccine reduces the severity of the illness. Vaccinated people are less likely to need ICU-level care or to die even if they need hospitalization.”

UCHealth physician shows off a smiley face on the spot she got the COVID-19 vaccine.
Dr. Natalie Rochester, an OB-GYN at UCHealth in Northern Colorado, gets a smiley face on the spot she got vaccinated, a request from her kindergarten-age daughter and classmates. UCHealth is now requiring vaccines for employees. Photo by Joel Blocker, for UCHealth.

About 340 million vaccine doses have now been administered across the nation, and 3.8 billion doses have been provided to people around the world. UCHealth employees have the option of receiving the vaccine of their choice, which includes two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or one dose of the J&J vaccine. Those with a valid medical or sincerely-held religious reason to avoid vaccination may request an exemption to the mandate.

An unvaccinated person is about 50 times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19 than a vaccinated person, and nearly 300 times more likely to die if infected.

Requiring all staff and providers to be vaccinated is simply the right thing to do, say UCHealth leaders, because it will help protect patients, visitors, and everyone working in the health care system’s hospitals and clinics.

UCHealth and providers throughout the state are providing vaccines for people age 12 and older. To get a shot, please click here.