CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Atrium Health is moving the deadline for its employee vaccine mandate, according to an email sent to employees on Oct. 20.
Originally, Atrium Health stated it would require all employees to have completed the COVID-19 vaccine series, meaning two doses of Pfizer or Moderna or one dose of Johnson & Johnson, or have an approved medical or religious exemption by Oct. 31.
"All teammates must complete their COVID-19 vaccine series or have an approved medical or religious exemption by Sunday, October 31, 2021," Atrium said in July. "Teammates who do not follow this policy will receive counseling for failing to receive required vaccinations. This could result in consequences up to and including end of employment. We value our teammates who have medical or religious reasons for not receiving the vaccine and will evaluate these requests through a multidisciplinary committee."
Now, employees must receive at least one dose or get approval for a medical or religious exemption by Oct. 31, as opposed to the initial requirement to be fully vaccinated or considered exempt by the end of October.
When asked about the decision to move the deadline, an Atrium spokesperson insisted the deadline hadn't moved, but instead allowed "good faith efforts" for people who intend to get vaccinated but need more time.
"For any teammate still considering your options, there is still time," a memo to employees reads. "Many teammates have just decided to get vaccinated in the past week. In recognition of those who are ready to take that step, any teammate who gets at least a first dose by October 31 – showing their good faith intent to comply with our policy – will be considered in compliance with the policy as long as they complete their second dose by Tuesday, November 30. These teammates will not lose their incentive opportunities."
According to Atrium Health's website, the health system has more than 70,000 teammates across its hospitals and care locations. As of the email sent to staff Wednesday, 59,000 of those teammates have provided proof of vaccination. Of that number, over 16,000 have become compliant since the start of October. Based on those numbers, roughly 11,000 teammates are not considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or in compliance with the policy.
Healthcare workers were among the first to be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, with some receiving their first dose in December 2020.
Teammates who have not gotten at least one dose or received medical or religious exemption approval by Oct. 15 will no longer be in good standing, will receive final counseling, and Atrium Health will begin "active recruitment" for replacements for the role.
Novant Health's vaccine mandate went into effect on Oct. 15. Around 175 employees were fired in September for violating the company's COVID-19 vaccine policy. Overall, 99% of Novant Health's workforce is fully vaccinated or has been approved for a medical or religious exemption.
Editor's Note: A previous version of this story did not include context about medical and religious exemptions to the vaccine mandate. Both Atrium Health and Novant Health allow employees to be considered for medical or religious exemptions.