State officials said Friday they are implementing a new policy that requires mandatory flu vaccinations for 10,000 employees and volunteers who work in state-run health care facilities across North Carolina.
The vaccinations, aimed at curbing the spread of flu and protecting vulnerable patients, must be done by Dec. 1, under the policy.
"Because many of the patients and residents in our state facilities are at high risk for complications from flu, this is a responsible decision that will create a safer environment for our patients and staff,” state Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos said in a statement.
According to DHHS spokesperson, Julie Henry, "If a person is not medically able to be vaccinated or if they have a religious objection to being vaccinated, they can apply for an exemption to the vaccine. If they get an exemption, they may be asked to wear a mask when they are around patients or in patient care areas during flu season.”
A person must have documentation from their church to qualify for the religious exemption. If an employee does not meet the exemptions and refuses to get a vaccination, that person can be dismissed.
According to Wos, 52 hospitals and health systems have already complied with the policy.
The department will hold vaccination clinics for employees throughout the fall. Employees will receive the vaccine at no charge through the State Health Plan.
"Anything we can do to help ensure a safer environment for them, is a positive for us," said Henry.