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The University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine will require employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine prior to Sept. 1.

Credit: Kylie Cooper

Republican lawmakers in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives are threatening to cut $32 million in funding from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine for requiring employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. 

The University of Pennsylvania Health System announced on May 19 that they will require all employees and clinical staff to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 prior to September 1, making UPHS one of the first health systems in the country to require its employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. GOP lawmakers argued that the vaccine requirement violates employee's medical privacy and constitutes a form of discrimination, according to the Pennsylvania Capital-Star

“We are deeply concerned that such a prestigious, renowned, and respected institution would implement this policy,” GOP lawmakers said in a June 3 letter. “We the undersigned will refuse to vote to approve any state budget that provides even one penny of funding to any program within the University of Pennsylvania until the policy listed above is reversed.” 

UPHS is Philadelphia's largest private employer with over 44,000 employees. The majority of the UPHS funding that comes from the state goes to Penn Vet, according to the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. The state also contributed $295,000 to Penn Medicine’s infectious disease department, according to their most recent state budget.

At the time of the May 19 announcement, nearly 70% of UPHS employees were fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The remaining 11,000 employees must have two doses of a two-dose vaccine or one dose of a single-dose vaccine at least two weeks before September 1. 

Employees who are unable to receive the vaccine for medical or religious reasons must apply for an exemption.

“We believe it is imperative for Penn Medicine to take the lead in requiring employee vaccinations to protect our patients and staff and to set an example to the broader community as we work together to end the COVID-19 pandemic,” UPHS Chief Executive Officer Kevin Mahoney told Penn Medicine.

Republican activists and right-leaning organizations have opposed vaccine requirements in various settings. Earlier this month, organizers have called for a reversal of a vaccine requirement by Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health, according to LNP