Lead by example: Meritus Health sets vaccination policy

Meritus Health on Tuesday joined other Maryland health systems in establishing COVID-19 vaccination requirements for employees.

The move will apply to all employees, medical staff members, volunteers, contractors and partners, according to an announcement the health system issued Tuesday afternoon.

“The positive outcomes of the COVID-19 vaccines are absolutely tremendous, and we have an ethical responsibility to do everything we can to protect our patients, our team members and our community from illnesses,” Dr. Rashid Hanif, chief of the medical staff, said in a statement.

According to Meritus, 60% of the health system's employees have been vaccinated so far.

The move puts the Meritus policy in alignment with the Maryland Hospital Association and other hospitals and health systems in the state.

As of Aug. 1, all new Meritus Health employees must be vaccinated for COVID-19 prior to starting work, according to the announcement.

And as of Sept. 1, all Meritus Health employees, medical staff, volunteers, contractors and partners will need to be vaccinated or will need to be COVID-19 tested every 14 days.

Medical and religious exemptions will be available, as they are for the influenza vaccine, Meritus announced.

“Our health care heroes have seen firsthand the devastation this virus has caused and how deadly it is," Maulik Joshi, Meritus president and CEO, said in the statement. “We are here to set the example as leaders in the health of our community and our obligation to our mission to improve the health status of our region.”

Meritus based the decision "on expert guidance and data showing minimal risk of COVID-19 vaccines compared to their high rates of effectiveness," the announcement states.

On June 7, the Maryland Hospital Association issued what it called a "consensus  statement" to require all hospital employees and clinical team members to be vaccinated.

At that time, the association reported, approximately 70% of all Maryland hospital employees had been fully vaccinated, along with more than 3 million Marylanders overall and about 140 million Americans.