ELKTON — As Cecil County continues to work toward vaccinating its residents against COVID-19, the major healthcare systems in the area are deciding whether to force the issue for its employees.
More than 6.4 million doses have been administered in Maryland according to the state’s coronavirus tracking website (coronavirus.maryland.gov). In Cecil County nearly 32,000 people have received a second dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine and 2,718 have received the single shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. That means approximately 33% of the population is fully protected.
Employees of ChristianaCare, which includes Union Hospital in Elkton and Christiana Hospital in Stanton, Del., do not have to be vaccinated although the healthcare company is strongly suggesting it.
“We are not requiring our caregivers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 at this time; however, we continue to monitor the data and learn from what strategies are proving to be most successful across the nation to ensure that we create a safe environment and an exceptional experience for our caregivers and everyone we serve,” said Sharon Kurfuerst, ChristianaCare’s system chief operating officer and president of ChristianaCare, Union Hospital.
However University of Maryland Medical System Upper Chesapeake, which includes Harford Memorial Hospital in Havre de Grace and Upper Chesapeake Medical Center in Bel Air, will require its employees to be vaccinated.
“We follow the science, and the scientific evidence tells us that from a safety and efficacy standpoint, COVID-19 vaccines represent a dramatic accomplishment and a clear pathway out of this pandemic,” said Mohan Suntha, MD, MBA, President and CEO of UMMS. “As health care professionals, we accept that we hold ourselves to a higher standard, and we embrace our mission to devote ourselves to the welfare of those in our care.”
Management and upper level employees have until Aug. 1, while all others must be vaccinated by Sept. 1.
Those who choose not to be vaccinated will have to undergo weekly testing.
Once there is an official COVID vaccine — those in use today are under emergency approval — UMMS will require all who work under its roof to be vaccinated.
At Perry Point Veterans Affairs Medical Center some 98 percent of the staff — in fact the Maryland VA system as a whole — are already vaccinated according to VA spokeswoman Ming Vincenti.
“The Veterans Health Administration, which includes the Perry Point VA Medical Center and the VA Maryland Health Care System, is not yet requiring employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccination, but it is recommended for their safety and protection,” Vincenti said.
Suntha considers the vaccination of UMMS employees a leadership example to the community.
“COVID-19 vaccines are by far the best way to stop the spread of the virus, and given our ethical obligation to our patients, we must take every appropriate measure to keep our hospitals and other locations as safe as possible,” Suntha said.
For those interested in getting the vaccine, the Cecil County Health Department is holding a clinic Wednesday at Perryville Fire Company’s Minker Banquet Hall from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Walk-ins are welcome but an appointment can be made at cecilcountyhealth.org
COVID vaccine is also now widely available at pharmacies, doctors offices and clinics across Cecil County.