Pa. coronavirus update: Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to mandate vaccines for all employees

The exterior of CHOP in Philadelphia

The exterior of CHOP in Philadelphia. (Children's Hospital of Philadelphia)

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The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia will soon join Penn Medicine and Virtua as major health care networks in the region mandating vaccinations for all employees.

According to an internally circulated memo obtained by the Washington Post, CHOP’s Vaccine Workgroup came to this conclusion after analyzing vaccine data and conducting a series of listening tours.

While CHOP, one of the city’s largest employers, initially planned on waiting until the vaccine got “full FDA licensure,” the rising threat of the delta variant upended those plans.

Another reason cited for the mandate in the memo is patient safety. Approximately 70% of CHOP patients are not eligible to receive the vaccine themselves based on age — making the vaccination status of CHOP employees more critical to prevent spread.

“The health and well-being of our community is at the forefront of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s mission, and we believe that it is our duty to protect those who cannot protect themselves, especially our young patients,” a CHOP spokesperson said in a statement to WHYY. “In consultation with our clinical experts, we are currently preparing for the implementation of a vaccine requirement for all workforce members at any CHOP location.”

A timeline for implementation of the new rule has not been set.

Pa. to launch text campaign with hopes of getting more residents fully vaccinated

Starting next week, the Pennsylvania Department of Health will begin texting thousands of residents to remind them they are still one shot away from being fully vaccinated.

During a virtual news conference on Thursday, Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam said more than 250,000 residents will receive the reminder as part of the campaign, which is targeting people who have let at least two months pass since getting their first shot of either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine.

“While the recommendation is to get the second dose within 42 days for best results, it is never too late to get your second dose. You do not have to start over,” said Beam.

The text campaign comes as positive coronavirus cases and hospitalizations for COVID-19 are on the rise in Pennsylvania. On Thursday, the state reported more than 1,000 new cases of COVID-19 and more than 400 hospitalizations.

Beam said the “significant majority” — well over 90% — of new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths related to COVID-19 are preventable at this point.

“And so, while we will closely monitor breakthrough cases to understand what we can do, the greatest protection folks have against getting ill from COVID-19, being hospitalized, or death, is really getting vaccinated,” she said.

Roughly 63% of Pennsylvanians who are 18 and older are fully vaccinated, among the highest rates in the country for that category.

Just over half of all state residents are fully vaccinated.

Against that backdrop, Montgomery County is now recommending universal masking in K-12 schools.

Thursday’s announcement, a change from guidance earlier in the week, is a reaction to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revising its protocols for masking on Tuesday in response to the increase in delta variant cases. It recommended masking in schools and indoors in counties with high transmission rates. Pennsylvania currently has seven of those, with Northampton, Monroe, and Adams counties being closest to the Philadelphia area.

Montgomery County’s masking guidance for schools is not a mandate. Individual districts will ultimately make the call.

The School District of Philadelphia had already told students and staff that they would have to wear masks even if they were vaccinated. Health officials in the city report 75% of Philadelphia residents having received at least one dose of the vaccine, with 62% fully vaccinated.

Chester, Delaware, and Bucks counties are not making mask recommendations, leaving the decision completely to districts.

Unlike New Jersey, Pennsylvania is not currently preparing to recommend universal masking for indoor public places. “We want to make sure that folks are focused on getting vaccinated,” said Beam.

Broke in PhillyWHYY is one of over 20 news organizations producing Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on solutions to poverty and the city’s push towards economic justice. Follow us at @BrokeInPhilly.

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