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Hershey Medical Center’s “We Listen…We Care” questions answered here

Hershey Medical Center leaders are working to ensure that all unvaccinated employees receive answers to questions about the federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate and have the resources they need to make their vaccination decision.

The “We Listen…We Care” initiative provides employees with a place to submit anonymous questions and also encourages them to schedule confidential one-on-one meetings with physicians or executives to address their concerns.

Dr. Cynthia Whitener, division chief, Infectious Diseases and Epidemiology, answers the questions submitted to date through the Medical Center’s “We Listen…We Care” Survey Monkey.

If you received the Johnson & Johnson first dose and do not want to get the second dose, are we still compelled to meet the Tuesday, Jan. 4 guideline?

Employers must follow the manufacturer’s dosing requirements to comply with the mandate. In this case, the Janssen Johnson & Johnson vaccine is currently authorized as a single dose vaccine so you are in compliance. The Moderna and Pfizer mRNA vaccines are authorized as two-dose vaccines, and each dose must be administered at a recommended period of time apart. Under the federal mandate and regulations, Medical Center employees must have the full manufacturer’s dose(s) required by Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022.

After a positive test infection can you be vaccinated?

Yes, you can be vaccinated if you are no longer in isolation for COVID-19 and you are recovering or have recovered from the infection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends getting vaccinated after having COVID-19 to ensure more dependable protective antibody levels. Their studies have found that people who have had COVID-19 and were vaccinated had protection from re-infection that was better than those who were previously infected but were not vaccinated. The federal mandate that the Medical Center must follow does not accept prior COVID-19 infection as a replacement for COVID-19 vaccination. The scientific data on immunity after infection are evolving. Thus, like many other issues related to COVID-19, it is possible that guidelines and/or requirements could change in the future.

Are there external professionals involved in the decision committee? Are there unvaccinated professionals involved in the decision committee?

The Penn State Health COVID-19 vaccine accommodations committee is made up of representatives and leaders from Human Resources and Employee Health (clinical), as well as a physician, someone from pastoral services and a legal advisor. The information discussed is kept confidential, and these leaders are committed to practicing the PSH RITE values. The structure of the group was established based on health care best practices and input from outside legal representation as well as from other health systems that made the decision to mandate COVID-19 vaccination prior to federal requirements being enacted.

In reference to changing the Dec. 8 date to Dec. 6, was there any consideration on behalf of employees who seek to submit an accommodation?

This change was required under the newest regulations issued by CMS. As a health care provider that receives Medicare and Medicaid funding, Penn State Health is required to comply with these new federal deadlines.

Where do I turn in my application for religious exemption?

Please refer to Penn State Health Mandatory Vaccine Policy, which provides a link to the form(s) that must be completed. Accommodation requests must be submitted by Monday, Dec. 6.  Supplemental information about allowable accommodations, the process to apply, as well as the forms that must be completed are linked here in the Medical and Religious Accommodations FAQ Section. Please ensure you use the forms provided.

Are booster shots mandatory?

No, COVID boosters are not mandatory at this time. It is possible that this requirement could change in the future depending on vaccine immunity data over time.

If employees have additional questions, they should request a meeting with a physician or executive or speak to their manager. The deadline for first dose vaccines or submission of an accommodation is Monday, Dec. 6.

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