Coronavirus: UAB Hospital ends vaccine mandate for staff members

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Officials at an Alabama hospital announced Saturday that they have ended a COVID vaccine requirement for employees.

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The decision comes while officials at UAB Hospital in Birmingham wait for details about a potential federal mandate, WBRC reported.

Last week, the Alabama Center for Law and Liberty sent a letter to the health system threatening legal action against UAB over the vaccine requirement, AL.com reported. The organization argued that the state’s vaccine passport ban prohibits local government entities from requiring or sharing immunization information, the website reported.

“As the Supreme Court of Alabama has recognized, UAB Hospital is a state-run hospital,” the letter said. “Consequently, UAB Hospital may not require its employees to disclose whether they have been vaccinated or not. Likewise, the Alabama Attorney General has examined the law and concluded that ‘no government, school, or business in Alabama may demand that a constituent, or customer, respectively, be vaccinated for COVID-19 or show proof of his or her vaccination for COVID-19.’”

Don Williamson, president of the Alabama Hospital Association, said most hospitals in the state are not requiring vaccines for employees, WBRC reported. UAB was an exception.

Williamson said between 50% and 80% of hospital staff members have been vaccinated, according to the television station. Staff members were offered incentive programs to get the vaccine, he said.

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UAB Hospital is still offering $400 to employees willing to be vaccinated, WBRC reported. Other hospitals are offering time off and prizes.

“President Biden issued an executive order Sept. 9 indicating that federal rules and regulations will be issued in the coming weeks that will require COVID vaccines for workers at health care facilities that receive Medicare or Medicaid dollars,” UAB spokesperson Tyler Greer said. “Because UAB Health System must follow federal law, UAB Health System will remove its vaccine policy at this time. UAB Health System will wait for the detailed federal guidance to develop a replacement vaccine policy in order to ensure full compliance with federal law.”

Alabama lawmakers passed a vaccine passport ban on May 17, the last day of the session, AL.com reported. The law prohibits certain vaccine requirements by government entities, universities and businesses but does not prevent private businesses from requiring employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19, the website reported.

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