CHHSM Board Approves COVID Vaccine Policies for Staff, Meetings

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The Board of the UCC Council for Health and Human Service Ministries (CHHSM) approved two vaccine policies — one for staff and the other for CHHSM meetings — during its Sept. 29 virtual meeting. Both policies require full vaccination against COVID-19. As new research is adopted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), CHHSM will adjust the policies accordingly.

Authored initially by CHHSM President and CEO Michael J. Readinger, both policies were vetted by three attorneys — including one specializing in human relations law — and two human relations specialists. The policies were then submitted to the Board for review.

“Creating an HR policy requiring vaccination of the CHHSM staff team is a social justice and advocacy issue. It is essential to the health and well-being of our team and those we interact with in person.” said Readinger. The policy for CHHSM meetings “is much more far reaching, but even more important because of where our attendees work and who they serve. Together, we can beat this pandemic.”

The staff policy requires all employees and contracted consultants to be fully vaccinated with the FDA authorized COVID-19 vaccine of their choice. When booster vaccines are recommended by the CDC, all employees will be required to receive them within 30 days of eligibility. All employees must provide proof of vaccination: either a completed CDC COVID-19 vaccination record card; or a medical record signed by a licensed health care provider indicating vaccine name and date of vaccination administration.

“Making the decision to create the staff policy was easy,” Readinger said. “Writing it was difficult as we considered every aspect that impacts our team. We factored in family situations, mental health, disabilities, emotional and psychological barriers and triggers, historical trauma, religion and medical exemptions.”

Staff policy exemptions will be considered in two areas: Medical and religious. A medical exemption must be written by a physician and include their medical license number and contact information. Additionally, the exemption must specify which immunizations are contraindicated, the reason why, and for how long the medical contraindication will last.

A religious exemption is a written and signed statement of objection to immunization due to an employee’s religious beliefs. If must address why the employee is requesting the exemption; a description of the religious principles that guides the objection to immunization; and an indication of whether the employee is opposed to all immunizations. If not, the employee must specify the religious basis that prohibits particular immunizations.

“We were inspired by a number of CHHSM member ministries who have recently adopted vaccine policies, in order to protect the vulnerable populations they service,” said the Rev. George Graham, CHHSM vice president. “We felt that it was time to join them in taking a leadership position on this issue. The bottom line is that vaccination protects those who are most at risk of being infected or dying of COVID-19. Doing our part to get vaccinated is the just, caring, and compassionate thing to do to prevent others from becoming infected.”

The policy for CHHSM meetings requires full vaccination for all in-person attendees, including boosters, if eligible. CHHSM is not requiring proof of vaccination for meetings but will assume agreement to attend a gathering as an affirmation that the attendee is fully vaccinated.

“Effecting vaccination policies for CHHSM is an important step toward protecting our members and communities,” said Board Member Jay Biere, CEO and president of Plymouth Place Senior Living in LaGrange Park, Ill., and CHHSM board treasurer. “As a leader in health and human services, putting vaccination policies in place speaks directly to CHHSM’s mission and the missions of our member organizations. It is our responsibility to protect and serve each other, an these policies help us do that.” Plymouth Place is one of the many CHHSM members with a vaccine policy already in place.

Both policies also deal with safety practices. The staff policy requires face masks in the office when in common space and among other employees in accordance with CDC and local health department guidelines. Any unvaccinated employees must wear masks when in the office at all times, even in their private offices, and weekly testing may be required (at CHHSM’s expense).

The CHHSM meeting policy states that CHHSM will advise meeting invitees of all local guidelines for mask wearing and safety procedures, and will pay attention to safety procedures when serving food and beverages and choosing dining options for meetings. Additionally, meeting rooms and room set-up will be designed with safety in mind.

“CHHSM supports both the ministry and administrative needs of its members, and leads the way in best practices and cutting edge policy directives,” said Abbreial P. Drane, president and CEO of Seven Counties Services/Bellewood & Brooklawn in Louisville, Ky., and CHHSM board chair. “We knew that we must lead by example, so we made the decision to require COVID-19 vaccinations. Now, we not only can keep the CHHSM staff and their families safe, but we can help our members work through this decision process as well.”

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