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(The Center Square) – West Virginia hospitals have begun to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for workers following a recommendation from the West Virginia Hospital Association (WVHA).

The West Virginia Health System, which is the state’s largest private employer, will require all workers to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 31. Similar announcements came from the Charleston Area Medical Center, Mon Health and other hospitals throughout the state.

“We’re doing this because it is the right thing to do,” Albert L. Wright, Jr., the president of the WVU Health System, said in a statement. “We are the state’s leading healthcare provider and largest employer, and we have a higher obligation to our patients as well as to each other. I want WVU Medicine hospitals and clinics to be as safe as possible for our patients and staff. A fully vaccinated workforce will help ensure that safety.”

The decisions came shortly after the Food and Drug Administration granted full approval of the Pfizer vaccine. The Moderna vaccine and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have emergency use authorization, but have not yet been fully approved.

WVU’s requirement applies to employees in all states, not just West Virginia.

Mon Health, which provides health services in Monongalia County, announced it would impose the requirement, but provide exemptions for medical or religious reasons. The hospital also requires its workers to receive the flu vaccine during flu season.

“Since the beginning of this unprecedented health crisis in our community, Mon Health has put the safety of patients, caregivers and the community at the forefront of our pandemic response strategy,” Krystal Atkinson, Chief Nursing Executive of Mon Health, said in a statement. “We believe this is a necessary step in prioritizing team member and patient safety, which align with our core values.”

In a news release, the WVHA urged all hospitals and health systems to require the vaccine for workers, saying it will help keep everyone safe and the vaccine has been shown to be safe. The association said this will be a step toward higher vaccination rates in the state and urged all West Virginians to get the vaccine.

“Hospital employee and staff vaccination against COVID-19 will maintain the long-term ability of our health care system to respond to the pandemic, to safely care for patients by protecting them from infection, and to mitigate the impact of the virus within health care facilities and among patients, hospital personnel, and their families and friends,” the statement read.

To date, West Virginia’s vaccination rate is one of the lowest in the country. Gov. Jim Justice has consistently urged all people to get vaccinated and has held weekly giveaways for vaccinated people to encourage higher vaccination rates.

Staff Reporter

Tyler Arnold reports on Virginia and West Virginia for The Center Square. He previously worked for the Cause of Action Institute and has been published in Business Insider, USA TODAY College, National Review Online and the Washington Free Beacon.