Black man wearing a facemask and receiving a vaccine
VCU and VCU Health System will now require employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19. (Getty Images)

VCU and VCU Health System to require employees to be vaccinated

The decision comes as the delta variant spreads rapidly across the country and after feedback from students, families, employees and patients.

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Virginia Commonwealth University and VCU Health System will now require employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The announcement was made in letters from VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D., to the university and health system communities Monday morning.

VCU faculty and staff will be required to report COVID-19 vaccination or submit a request for a medical or religious exemption by Sept. 1. VCU Health System employees have until Sept. 15 to get their first dose, but are urged to comply with the new requirement as soon as possible. 

All university and health system employees will be required to report their COVID-19 vaccinations, and employees dually employed must report vaccination to both the university and health system. There is no action required for employees who have already reported their vaccination. Additional information regarding the medical and religious exemption process will be forthcoming from the university and health system, Rao wrote. VCU and VCU Health System have created additional resources for employees regarding vaccination reporting and requirements on the One VCU: Better Together website (for university employees) and the VCU Health System intranet (for health system team members).

Monday’s announcement comes as the delta variant spreads rapidly across the country and comes a week after the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidelines on when, where and who should wear face masks to protect against COVID-19. In his letter Monday, Rao also announced that masking indoors will be reinstated throughout the university and remains in effect for health system facilities.

“As One VCU, our community is dedicated to protecting the health and well-being of each other and those we serve,” Rao wrote. “In keeping with our public health responsibilities, we continue to monitor COVID-19 infection rates in the Richmond metro area and there is no doubt that the delta variant is a serious threat. These past few weeks, we heard from thousands of concerned students, families, faculty, staff, team members and patients through surveys and information sessions. Their message to us was clear: They are ready for VCU to take additional measures to combat the spread of COVID-19.” 

For university employees, the decision aligns with Gov. Ralph Northam’s Executive Directive 18, which directs state employees, including university employees, to be vaccinated (with allowances for medical and religious exemptions), and mirrors the vaccine requirement for VCU students. For the VCU Health System, this decision is similar to existing policies and procedures for mandatory flu vaccinations, which have been in place for several years, Rao wrote.

“No one is happy that this pandemic surge is causing us to take these steps. But the science behind these public health measures is clear,” Rao wrote. “Doing so will help protect you from getting sick and protect those around you who are particularly vulnerable to the virus.  

“These decisions will give us the best chance to safely continue our mission-critical operations,” he continued. “The university and the health system will implement these decisions based on the operational needs of each organization, and our entire community must remain flexible as we continue adjusting to changing circumstances. As One VCU, now is the time to demonstrate our commitment to public health.” 

Read the full letter on the One VCU: Better Together website.