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A nurse inoculates a woman with a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Friday, April 9, 2021. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

EASTON — Two of Maryland’s largest hospital systems are mandating employees to get COVID-19 vaccinations.

The University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS)— which operates 13 hospitals statewide including UM Shore Regional Health operations on the Eastern Shore — and the Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore are both requiring hospital workers, contractors and volunteers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Sept. 1.

John Hopkins Medicine is the hospital and health care arm of Johns Hopkins University.

UMMS also operates a network of urgent care centers across Maryland and employs more than 29,000 people.

“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, 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. 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.”

According to the hospital system, “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.”

There are potential religious and medical accommodations provided under the Americans with Disabilities Act and similar state laws for those who don’t want to get vaccines. However, court and regulatory rulings give hospitals and other health care employers more power to order employees to get vaccines than other workplaces.

The Johns Hopkins vaccine mandate applies to “faculty, staff, temporary staff, students, postdoctoral fellows, house staff, providers, volunteers and vendors at all Johns Hopkins Medicine locations.”

“Every person who is vaccinated helps to bring an end to this pandemic,” says Paul Rothman, M.D., dean of the medical faculty for the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine. “Since Johns Hopkins Medicine first offered the COVID-19 vaccine to our personnel in December 2020, we know that more than three-quarters of our workforce have been vaccinated. To avoid a rise in viral transmission as restrictions are lifted, we need as many people vaccinated as possible.”

Johns Hopkins Medicine personnel impacted by the vaccine requirement will be given access to a portal where workers will submit documentation indicating their vaccination status, or where they can request an exemption for religious or medical reasons.

The Maryland Department of Health reported Wednesday that just over 50% of Marylanders are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

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