BALTIMORE — The University of Maryland Medical System has announced that it will require COVID-19 vaccination for all current and new employees beginning Sept. 1.

UMMS operates 13 hospitals and a network of urgent care centers across Maryland and employs more than 29,000 people. That includes UM Shore Medical Center at Chestertown.

COVID-19 vaccines have been proven safe and extremely effective at preventing the spread of the virus in virtually all settings, with numerous peer-reviewed studies reaffirming the efficacy of all vaccines currently being administered in the United States, a UMMS news release states.

"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 Dr. Mohan Suntha, president and CEO of UMMS.

By requiring COVID-19 vaccination for team members, patients and other visitors can continue to remain confident that every appropriate measure to prevent the spread of the virus is in place, the release states.

“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. 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.

Under the new policy, all UMMS team members and partners, including contractors, volunteers and students who remain unvaccinated will be required to participate in weekly COVID-19 testing.

UMMS leaders at the manager level and above will have until Aug. 1 to be vaccinated or comply with weekly testing. Starting Sept. 1, all team members will be required to receive their vaccination or participate in weekly testing.

“It is now clear that vaccination is the only tool at our disposal that is strong enough to end this pandemic and protect our workforce and patients from yet another surge and emerging variants,” said Dr. Michelle Gourdine, UMMS interim chief medical officer.

When a COVID-19 vaccine is granted full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, COVID-19 vaccination will become mandatory for all UMMS team members and partners, with limited exceptions for medical conditions, religious beliefs and pregnancy.

This policy will mirror UMMS’ approach to vaccines for influenza and other infectious diseases, which helps keep patients and team members safe from infection, the release states.

“As health care workers, it is our responsibility to do all we can to protect our patients and colleagues, and that includes getting the COVID-19 vaccine, which our research scientist colleagues at the University of Maryland School of Medicine were instrumental in helping develop and test during clinical trials. We have seen firsthand the benefits of vaccination and we believe it is important for trusted organizations like ours who serve as anchor institutions within our communities to set a clear example,” Gourdine said.

All UMMS facilities also will continue following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requiring masking, wearing of certain personal protective equipment, appropriate social distancing and handwashing.

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