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Adhering to new federal guidelines for health care workers, the Kanawha County Emergency Ambulance Authority is implementing a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for its employees.

The executive committee of the ambulance authority’s board approved the vaccine mandate during an emergency meeting Friday afternoon.

The Biden administration last week issued an emergency regulation requiring COVID-19 vaccination for health care workers in facilities that participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

Monica Mason, executive director of the ambulance authority, said the agency’s attorney reviewed the new federal rule and determined that, while ambulance providers do not appear to be subject to the federal mandate, ambulance authority employees will be required to be vaccinated because of contracts the agency has with local health care facilities.

“We do have contractual agreements with four of our local nursing homes within the area,” Mason said. “We work with hospitals very closely, as well as Thomas Hospital in our contractual agreements that we have with them for the non-emergency side of the house.”

Under the federal rule, health care workers must have a first dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, by Dec. 6. Workers have until Jan. 4 to have all necessary vaccine doses.

“We’re a little bit already ahead of the game, because we started vaccinating our staff when we had first shots in Kanawha County,” Mason said. “Our employees were offered the vaccine in mid-December.”

As of Friday, 85% of the ambulance authority’s 233 employees had been vaccinated, she said.

Mason said that, according to the attorney’s interpretation, the federal rule does not apply to all ambulance authority workers.

“But we believe, because [KCEAA] is a health care provider whose employees are regularly exposed to the public, to other health care facilities and providers, and to their fellow employees, that adopting a vaccination requirement for all its employees, as long as there’s a place for the bona fide medical and religious exemptions, is the best way to move forward,” Mason said.

Requests for medical exemptions will be reviewed by the agency’s medical team, Mason said after the meeting. An administrative committee will review requests for religious exemptions.

Information about the vaccine mandate was sent out to employees Friday, Mason said.

The mandate is on the agenda for the full ambulance authority board meeting next week.

Lori Kersey covers the city and county. She can be reached at 304-348-1240 or lori.kersey@hdmediallc.com. Follow @LoriKerseyWV on Twitter.

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