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University Hospitals sets new deadline for vaccine mandate: All caregivers must receive 1st dose by Feb. 14

The hospital system had halted its mandate before the Biden administration and Supreme Court ordered them to reinstate it last week.

CLEVELAND — *EDITOR'S NOTE: The above video is from a previous story.

More than a month after suspending its COVID-19 vaccine mandate for employees, University Hospitals has announced a new deadline for workers to get the shots at the behest of the United States Supreme Court.

The hospital system confirmed Friday that all caregivers must get at least their first dose by Valentine's Day, Feb. 14. For those getting a two-dose vaccine from either Pfizer or Moderna, the second dose must be received by March 15.

"This requirement applies to all UH caregivers as well as licensed independent providers; students, trainees, and volunteers; and anyone who provides care, treatment, or other in-person services to UH or its patients under contract or arrangement," officials said in a statement.

All employees are eligible to apply for either a medical or religious exemption under the mandate. However, while the hospital did not specify what will happen to workers who don't obtain an exemption and still refuse to get the shots, it is expected they will either be placed on leave or perhaps fired altogether.

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Following full FDA approval for Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine and a federal "vaccine or test" mandate from the Biden administration applying to all private businesses with at least 100 employees, both UH and Cleveland Clinic announced they would require the shots. All caregivers were originally compelled to receive their second doses by Jan. 4, but just weeks after the announcement, both measures were paused following an injunction by a federal judge.

The issue made it all the way to the Supreme Court, where in a 6-3 decision the justices ruled against the requirement for all private businesses. However, a separate 5-4 ruling kept in place a mandate for all health care facilities receiving Medicare and Medicaid funds, which applies to both UH and the Clinic as well as most hospitals and similar locations across the country.

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UH's decision means all three of Greater Cleveland's major health care systems will make most of their workers get the COVID shots. Cleveland Clinic reinstated its mandate last week, while MetroHealth put its own requirement in place before the FDA even gave full approval to Pfizer's doses.

This afternoon, UH further stated:

"COVID-19 vaccines and boosters are the most effective way to protect against severe illness resulting in hospitalization and death. Since the vaccine became available in late 2020, we have encouraged our caregivers to get vaccinated and made vaccines readily available to them. The overwhelming majority of them are vaccinated and we are grateful to them all for their service during this challenging time."