Vanderbilt Sees Surge Of Employee Vaccinations Ahead Of Deadline

Oct 4, 2021

Doctors, nurses and cleaning staff who work on Vanderbilt's COVID unit were the first in Tennessee to receive the vaccine in December.
Credit Blake Farmer | WPLN

Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s deadline for complying with a vaccine mandate passed Thursday, following a surge of COVID shots being given to hundreds of employees in order to keep their jobs.

At this point, 97% of the health system’s workforce has now “complied” with the vaccine mandate, a figure that also includes those who received an exemption. That’s up from 95% early this week and up from 72% two months ago, when the mandate was announced. But even the big jump leaves roughly 900 who could lose their jobs.

Vanderbilt is now making sure employees didn’t receive a vaccination elsewhere and just not tell their employer.

“To ensure a fair evaluation of remaining employees pertaining to the policy there is a reconciliation period where each employee’s compliance status will be verified,” VUMC spokesman Craig Boerner says in a written statement. “While we expect to have final numbers by the end of October, we are reassured by the overwhelming support for our vaccination policy.”

Taking it slow also helps avoid a sudden staffing shortage, as experienced at other hospitals that have enforced vaccine mandates. Vanderbilt has been so short on staff that the National Guard has been helping out.

“We are still managing very challenging conditions with limited staff,” says Dr. Jeff Balser, the hospital’s CEO.

VUMC was the first to require vaccinations in Nashville and has been most vocal about the rule. The academic health system is now trying to capitalize, running ads that tout its mandate.

Ascension Saint Thomas has also required vaccination, though it has not publicized what percentage of hospital staff have complied. HCA TriStar has not made its own vaccine requirement but will likely have to comply with federal mandates once those rules are finalized.

“We continue to review the details of President Biden’s plan,” a TriStar spokesperson says in a statement. “Based on what we know today, we are developing plans by reviewing processes, best practices and knowledge gained from HCA Healthcare affiliate operations in states that have already mandated vaccination.”