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Appalachia Health News tells the story of our health challenges and how we overcome them throughout the region. 

Huntington Health Facilities Mandate COVID-19 Vaccination

St. Mary’s Medical Center in Huntington, West Virginia.
Courtesy of St. Mary’s Medical Center

Marshall Health and Mountain Health Network are the latest health systems in West Virginia to require staff to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

“This pandemic is just growing too large, and we just really need to protect our patients,” said Marshall Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Joe Evans.

Mountain Health Network operates Cabell Huntington Hospital and St. Mary’s Medical Center. Marshall Health helps staff these hospitals and runs more than 40 satellite offices in 13 counties. The policy also applies to those attending or teaching at the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine. Marshall Health said 80 percent of its staff and students are fully vaccinated.

“Our sister hospitals, Cabell Huntington and St. Mary's, they've got 85 COVID positive patients in the hospital right now,” Evans said. “Our ERs are crowded, patients waiting in the emergency rooms to find a bed. We worry about people needing non-COVID care getting it during this crisis.”

But these facilities are offering another option for those who don’t want to get vaccinated. Instead, staff can undergo weekly testing. Evans said he didn’t want the policy to backfire.

“There's some worry if we would lose extra employees on top of the shortage we have now because of COVID,” he said.

Other health facilities, including Mon Health Systems and Charleston Area Medical Center, issued COVID-19 vaccine requirements last week, after the West Virginia Hospital Association came out in support of these measures and the Food and Drug Administration gave full authorization of the Pfizer vaccine.

Some protests have popped up since WVU Medicine made its vaccine policy announcement, which does not offer a testing routine in lieu of vaccination.

Appalachia Health News Reporter, jleffler@wvpublic.org, 502-377-0438, @june_leffler

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