A vaccine dose is prepared at the state's mass vaccination site in St. Mary's County. Photo from the Executive Office of the Governor.

Maryland’s 60 hospitals and healthcare systems banded together Wednesday to announce that they will require all employees and clinicians to receive COVID-19 vaccinations.

The announcement came in the form of a consensus statement issued by the Maryland Hospital Association which says that each hospital will set a date that each employee must be vaccinated by as a condition of their employment or contract engagement. Religious and medical exemptions will be established by each individual healthcare system.

“This consensus demonstrates hospitals’ commitment to caring for their communities and fulfills their promise to put patients first,” Bob Atlas, president and CEO of the Maryland Hospital Association, said in a statement.

According to the consensus statement, about 70% of hospital employees across the state have received the vaccine. Data from the Maryland Department of Health’s COVID infection and vaccination dashboard suggests that approximately 50% of state residents are fully vaccinated.

The University of Maryland Medical System, which includes a network of 13 hospitals and nine urgent care centers, will require that all of its more than 29,000 employees be vaccinated by Sept. 1, or be tested for COVID-19 each week. Those in managerial positions must be vaccinated or submit to regular testing by Aug. 1.

“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 the University of Maryland Medical System. “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 to keep our hospitals and other locations as safe as possible.”

After one of the currently available vaccines is fully approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, COVID vaccines will become mandatory for all employees, with exceptions for pregnancy, religious beliefs and those certain medical conditions. That approach would mirror the UMMS policy on vaccines for influenza and other infectious diseases, according to officials.

“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, the interim chief medical officer for the University of Maryland Medical System. “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.”

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