Today, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield (CareFirst), a not-for-profit and the largest healthcare company in the mid-Atlantic region, announced it will make COVID-19 vaccinations a requirement for its workforce, Boards of Directors, and guests.
"Requiring COVID-19 vaccinations reinforces what CareFirst stands for as a champion of health and our role in protecting the communities we serve, those we employ and their families," Brian D. Pieninck, President and CEO of CareFirst, stated.
The requirement aligns with the organization's ongoing initiatives urging the CareFirst workforce and broader community to get vaccinated against COVID-19 to achieve target vaccination rates that will end the pandemic, the company said in a news release.
"This is what it means to put the health and safety of the people we serve first as we work to transform healthcare in every aspect of what we do and live up to what our members and stakeholders expect when they hear the name CareFirst," Pieninck shared. "As a leading healthcare organization, it is our responsibility to do our part to end this pandemic and protect the health and well-being of our members, workforce, partners and communities."
CareFirst has set a November 1, 2021, deadline for unvaccinated employees, including those who work remotely today or in the future, to become fully vaccinated for COVID-19 or apply for a medical or religious exemption. CareFirst is requiring the same for all contingent workers who enter CareFirst facilities or are engaging in person with community and business partners on behalf of CareFirst.
"It's critical to be clear in explaining to our workforce why we've made this decision," said Angela Celestin, EVP, Chief Human Resources Officer of CareFirst. "We view this decision as an extension of our ongoing transformation efforts intended to optimize how and where we work. This includes building a safe environment for in-person collaboration. CareFirst must be future-ready as we emerge as a more hybrid workforce that is deeply engaged in communities throughout the region."
CareFirst already required their workforce to be fully vaccinated if engaging in person with the community and business partners on behalf of the company. The company continues to provide updated educational resources from medical experts on the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines in partnership with community organizations.
Celestin added, "Everyone has an important part in slowing the spread of COVID-19. While strong vaccine efficacy and a recent increase in vaccination rates have allowed us to feel hopeful, obstacles to achieving our better, healthier normal remain. Vaccination is the best resource we have to safeguard everyone and get better together."
In addition to implementing COVID-19 vaccine policies to safeguard the workforce and workplace, CareFirst will enforce the same guidelines for guests who enter the company’s facilities and attend CareFirst sponsored events. These safety measures serve as an extension to protect employees and the various populations they interface with throughout the region. As a precaution, CareFirst employees and contingent workers will not be required to attend in-person functions or meetings where similar protocols are not enforced.
"Employers are in a unique position, no matter the industry, to directly impact the health and wellness of their employees and the populations they serve, particularly, as we continue to navigate the impacts of COVID-19," Pieninck said. "Our ask to fellow employers, organizational leaders, and business partners is to set an example that reflects our shared responsibility to protect our communities' health by getting vaccinated against COVID-19."
CareFirst will continue to work with jurisdictions and public health authorities to provide support, identify and eliminate barriers and create solutions to coronavirus care for our members and the communities we serve, the release said. Visit CareFirst's COVID Resource Center, social media channels and website to review the latest information.