U.Va. Health will no longer require COVID-19 vaccinations for team members as of Aug. 4, per an update announced Tuesday. While this change in policy follows new guidance from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, representatives say U.Va. Health continues to recommend vaccinations.
This new change in policy backtracks the previous requirements for healthcare workers and staff members to be vaccinated against COVID-19 that have been in effect since 2021.
The CMS, a federal agency operating within the Department of Health and Human Services, released new guidelines May 31 that no longer mandate COVID-19 vaccination for health care staff. Their decision follows a May 1 White House press release announcing that the Biden-Harris administration will end the current vaccination requirements for CMS-certified facilities — which includes U.Va. Health.
Public Information Officer Eric Swensen said that the decision reflects U.Va Health’s goal to align itself with the latest CMS guidance.
“Although U.Va. Health will no longer require the COVID-19 vaccine among its team members, we will continue to recommend that all eligible individuals — including healthcare workers — receive both a primary COVID-19 vaccination and recommended boosters, as this remains the best way to stay protected,” Swensen said in a written statement to The Cavalier Daily.
COVID-19 deaths have decreased by 95 percent since the vaccine became available in 2021 and hospitalizations are down 91 percent, per the White House release. Around 270 million Americans have received at least one shot of the vaccine.
Once the new guidelines go into effect, U.Va. Health will no longer require an exemption process for those not choosing to vaccinate. All team members, regardless of vaccination status, must continue wearing protective equipment consistent with hospital policy.
U.Va. Health relaxed masking policies this April, expanding mask-optional zones to administrative and research buildings, ambulatory clinics and outpatient surgery centers. Masking remains required in the main spaces of the University Hospital and patient care areas.