WINCHESTER — Valley Health told its employees and affiliated physicians Monday that the Covid-19 vaccine is now required. The order takes effect immediately and requires staff to be fully vaccinated by Nov. 1. More than 2,100 employees of the 6-hospital system remain unvaccinated.

“We believe requiring our staff to take this step to stop the spread of the virus is the most responsible course of action,” said Valley Health President and CEO Mark Nantz.

Valley Health employs more than 250 people in Hampshire County between its hospital, wellness center, transportation service and home health care divisions. The system’s flagship hospital, Winchester Medical Center, provides employment for dozens more Hampshire County residents.

In all, Valley Health has 6,300 employees and affiliated doctors. The network said Monday that 65% are vaccinated, with that number rising daily.

The new rule requires anyone who is not yet vaccinated to receive the 1st shot by Oct. 1 and complete the 2-shot regimen by Nov. 1. Managers face a stricter deadline — the 1st dose by Aug. 16.

New employees must either already be vaccinated or complete the vaccination 14 days before starting, effective immediately.

Employees who claim religious or medical reasons for not being vaccinated can apply for an exemption that will be “carefully and confidentially” scrutinized, Valley Health said.

Those who do not meet the vaccination requirement can be suspended or terminated.

“Every patient, every community member and every employee must know that safety is our top priority,” Nantz said, “and when visiting any Valley Health facility they should feel confident we have done all we can to keep them safe.”

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