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UCHealth Longs Peak Hospital can be seen on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020, in Longmont, Colo. (Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer)
UCHealth Longs Peak Hospital can be seen on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020, in Longmont, Colo. (Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer)
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UCHealth on Wednesday announced it will require all employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 1.

“I’m very excited to say that we will be mandating the COVID-19 vaccination for everyone who basically walks in our building,” said Dr. Michelle Barron, senior medical director of infection prevention and control for UCHealth, during a Zoom meeting Wednesday. “We’ve done this with a lot of thought, (and) we have previously mandated the influenza vaccination.”

UCHealth has locations throughout the state, including in Boulder, Longmont and Broomfield.

Barron said all employees are expected to be fully immunized with either the one-dose or two-dose COVID-19 vaccination by Oct. 1. If employees are able to show exceptions for medical or religious reasons they are not required to vaccinate. Other employees who do not get vaccinated by the deadline may face termination.

Patients or visitors of UCHealth are not required to vaccinate.

After mandating staff vaccinate against the flu, some employees left and went to work at other health care facilities, and others left the state where the mandate wasn’t required, Barron said. She is predicting a similar reaction with this mandate.

“I anticipate there’ll be some individuals that again may choose to make alternative plans for what they do, but we’re hoping that they understand the intent at the end of the day is for their safety, the safety of our patients, visitors and for the community at large,” she said. “Obviously I think some individuals will still make other choices, and that’s certainly within their rights.”

When asked if it is legal for UCHealth to mandate the vaccine for staff, Barron said the hospital has the ability to require certain conditions for employment.

“This obviously is being tested out in other states, and again, not knowing the specific legalities to Colorado, I don’t think they’re that different,” she said. “So far, when (the requirement has been) challenged in other states, those courts have held up the notion that employers can have specific mandates, including vaccinations for those employees.”

About 85% of all UCHealth employees have been vaccinated, and the facility is currently offering a $500 bonus for anyone who has been vaccinated or gets vaccinated by Aug. 22, Barron said.

“Vaccination is an incredibly important tool for us to utilize, and it is the best way in addition to other layers of protection that we have in our health care environment to protect the people in our building as well as the community at large,” she said.

Lonnie Cramer, the president of UCHealth Longs Peak Hospital in Longmont, said the COVID-19 vaccine is both safe and effective.

“Just like requiring our hospital and clinic employees, providers, volunteers and partners to get influenza vaccines and wear appropriate (personal protective equipment) at work, requiring our employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine is the right thing to do to protect everyone,” he wrote in an email.