Special to Iredell Free News

RALEIGH — Nearly all 10,000 employees at state-operated healthcare facilities are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and compliant with a mandatory vaccination requirement, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

The department’s Division of State Operated Healthcare Facilities (DSOHF), a state-operated health care system comprised of 14 facilities, moved to mandatory COVID-19 vaccination in July.

Sixteen individuals were dismissed for non-compliance with the policy’s vaccination deadline of September 30. Approximately 6 percent of DSOHF employees received exemptions from the policy with medical, religious, and other reasonable accommodations consistent with implementation of Equal Employment Opportunity standards under the American with Disabilities Act.

“We could not be prouder of our employees for recognizing the essential role vaccination plays in protecting everyone in our facilities. For the work they do and the challenges they continue to overcome, they are nothing less than heroes,” said Chief Deputy Secretary for Health Kody H. Kinsley. “The small number of employee dismissals is a testament to the fact that vaccine mandates are an effective tool to stop the spread of COVID-19 and save lives.”

At the end of June, DSOHF had voluntary COVID-19 vaccination rates higher than 75 percent for its 10,000 employees. This was the culmination of a vaccination campaign organized around education, equity, universal access and person-centered outreach.

Shortly after North Carolina health systems and leading health care organizations announced the need for mandatory COVID-19 vaccination, DSOHF established its own mandatory vaccination policy, with September 30 as the deadline. 

“Our system is a safety-net in every sense of the term,” said Dr. Carrie Brown, chief medical officer for Behavioral Health and Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities for NCDHHS. “We care for patients and residents with some of the most complicated combinations of physical and behavioral health conditions, including those affected by social determinants of health, such as lack of health insurance. It is essential we do everything in our power to protect those we have the privilege of serving, as well as our extraordinary colleagues who have dedicated their lives to this work.”

COVID-19 vaccines offer significant protection against serious illness, hospitalization and death.

People who are not fully vaccinated are more than 18 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than people who are fully vaccinated.

Free COVID-19 vaccines are widely available across the state to anyone 12 and older. To get a vaccine near you, visit MySpot.nc.gov or call 888-675-4567. You can also text your ZIP code to 438829 to find vaccine locations near you.

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