A $500 COVID Vaccine Incentive Is Coming For UCHealth Workers. A Mandate Is Next

Mass Vaccination Site
Andy Cross/The Denver Post, Pool
COVID-19 vaccines await injection at the UCHealth COVID-19 mass vaccination clinic in the Coors Field parking lot Jan. 30, 2021.

UCHealth employees may soon be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19, but for now, they can get paid to get the protection.

UCHealth plans to give $500 dollars to those among its 26,000 employees who are vaccinated. Contractors can also receive the bonus. The system operates 12 hospitals and about 700 individual clinics across Colorado, southern Wyoming and western Nebraska. The bonus applies to thousands of additional contractors, like those working as security guards or valets.

Earlier this week, Centura Health announced a similar move.

Those UCHealth workers who are now vaccinated will get the money in mid-July, and anyone who gets vaccinated between now and August 22 would get it on Sept. 3.

 “UCHealth will mandate the vaccine for all of our employees and contractors at some point, likely later this year,” said Dan Weaver, Vice President of Communications for UCHealth, via email. He noted the system already requires employees to get the flu vaccine. “We want to provide the safest possible environment for our patients, visitors and employees, and requiring everyone to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in the same way we mandate influenza vaccinations will help improve safety for everyone.”

Though it will depend on how many people actually get vaccinated, he said UCHealth is expecting to pay out between $12 and $15 million in bonuses.

In April, a health care system in Texas became the first to require the vaccine for workers. That led to a lawsuit, which was thrown out, and more than 150 workers resigning or being fired

Spokespeople for other large health systems like SCL Health and Denver Health said a vaccine requirement is not something they've considered so far.

Weaver said currently more than 80 percent of UCHealth’s employees are fully vaccinated, and “this number continues to grow each week.” He couldn’t provide specific totals for those working in in-patient roles but said “our medical providers and leaders have extremely high rates of vaccination.”

“Our ultimate goal is almost 100 percent vaccination,” he said, adding that the COVID-19 vaccine provides safety not only to UCHealth employees themselves but for its coworkers, family members, patients and visitors. 

“This is why we want each and every UCHealth employee and contractor to be vaccinated unless they have a specific medical or religious reason to avoid the vaccine,” Weaver said. “We’ve been hitting 100 percent compliance with our influenza vaccine policy for many years.”

Centura CEO Peter Banko said about 70 percent of that system’s 20,000 employees are now vaccinated — and he's aiming to see that exceed 90 percent. He anticipates Centura’s incentive program to cost around $7 million.

A Centura spokesman said the system’s highest vaccination rates are amongst hospital leaders and employees that work face to face with patients, like physicians, advanced practice providers, and nurses, who average above 80 percent vaccination.

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