The finish line has moved, but the destination is the same.
A change in deadlines regarding COVID vaccinations for federal contractors is giving University of Virginia employees in the academic and business sides another four weeks to get their shots.
UVa officials earlier this week announced that all employees, whether full time, part time or contract and even those working entirely from home, have until January to get vaccinated for the SARS-CoV-19 virus that causes COVID-19.
The date change is in keeping with a Nov. 4 missive from the White House that announced the extension. The previous deadline was Dec. 8.
The original date was set in a September executive order signed by President Joe Biden requiring vaccinations.
“On Nov. 4, President Biden revised the deadline by which covered employees of organizations that hold certain federal contracts must receive their final COVID-19 vaccine dose,” UVa Provost Liz Magill and Chief Operating Officer J.J. Davis wrote in a Nov. 8 memo to employees.
“The University of Virginia previously had until Dec. 8 to have their workforce fully vaccinated. The new compliance deadline is now Jan. 4, 2022,” they wrote. “Compliance with President Biden’s executive order is vital to ensure that we do not risk losing millions in federal contract dollars that support important research and education work here at UVa.”
The new deadline also impacts any UVa Health system employees working remotely who will now need to be vaccinated by Jan. 4. Onsite health system employees were to have been vaccinated by Nov. 1 and that deadline remains, officials said.
The vaccine mandate applies to employees working in the UVa Medical Center, School of Medicine, School of Nursing, University Physicians Group, Health Sciences Library, and Community Medicine, officials said.
Health system officials announced last week that an estimated 173 employees were facing termination for non-compliance, including more than 40 registered nurses and two physicians.
Officials said they are working with the staff to get them vaccinated, if possible. They also said they have been hiring additional staff, both employees and contract personnel, to fill vaccine-related vacancies.
According to the human resources page of the UVa website, all employees are required to get the shot or shots, unless they have a university-approved religious or medical exemption. Employees will no longer be permitted to elect not to be vaccinated, or to test as an alternative to vaccination.
“After Jan. 4, anyone who is not in compliance, either by being vaccinated or receiving a university-approved exemption, will be subject to disciplinary action consistent with the university’s policies, up to and including unpaid leave or termination,” the webpage states.
For employees to meet the deadlines, they should receive their first Moderna shot by Dec. 7 and second shot by Jan. 4. Pfizer vaccine recipients should get their first dose by Dec. 14 and the second by Jan. 4. Those who opt for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine need to get it before or on Jan. 4.
The White House announcement on Nov. 4 also announced new Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, requirements that employers with 100 or more employees either get workers fully vaccinated or test them for COVID-19 on at least a weekly basis.
The OSHA rule also requires that employers provide paid-time for employees to get vaccinated, and ensure all unvaccinated workers wear a face mask in the workplace.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services at the Department of Health and Human Services also announced its requirement that health care workers at facilities participating in Medicare and Medicaid be fully vaccinated.
OSHA will not apply its rule to those workplaces covered by either the Medicare/Medicaid rule, such as UVa Health system employees, or the federal contractor vaccination requirement, which covers other UVa employees.
Both OSHA and Medicare/Medicaid officials said the new rules trump any inconsistent state or local laws and will be enforced despite any laws that ban or limit an employer’s authority to require vaccination, masks, or testing.