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Medical and religious exemptions explained for COVID-19 vaccine

Cone Health, Wake Forest Baptist Health, and Novant Health are requiring all employees to be vaccinated by the fall.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — The countdown is on for thousands of health care workers in the Triad to get vaccinated or file an exemption. If not, they could lose their jobs.

Cone Health, Wake Forest Baptist Health, and Novant Health are requiring all employees to be vaccinated by the fall.

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Unvaccinated health care works have two choices at this point, get the shot or lose their job. The only exception is if workers can prove they have a religious or medical reason not to get the vaccine.

A Novant Health Care worker sent WFMY a copy of their 2021 mandatory COVID-19 vaccination program. The document listed frequently asked questions. In it, the guidelines state that requests to skip the shot will be reviewed by a vaccine exemptions committee.

Novant Health officials said they're seeing a big increase in staff members getting the shot. 

"We are seeing an increase in team member vaccinations following the implementation of our mandatory vaccine program. Prior to July 22, we administered roughly 10 vaccines a day to team members. Since July 23, we have been administering on average over 120 vaccines a day. We are encouraged by these increases and continue to work to address any concerns team members may have. The deadline for team members to get vaccinated is Sept. 15th so the exemption process is still underway," a Novant Health spokesperson told WFMY News 2. 

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Over at Wake Forest Baptist Health, Dr. Richard Lord said they have received several requests for exemptions.

"I actually did one today for an individual who has had allergic reactions to the flu vaccine and was asking for a medical exemption, which is perfectly reasonable when they've had an allergic reaction, so I filled that form out, and they turned it into employee health," Lord said. "For the religious exemption, the individual will fill that out, and they submit that, and it will be reviewed anonymously by a committee."

Still, others said they shouldn't have the shot, for any reason. There have been protests at hospitals across the state since several health providers announced they'll require employees to get vaccinated.

RELATED: 'I'm just not ready to get the shot yet' | Cone Health employees protest COVID-19 vaccine requirement

RELATED: Protesters push back after Triad hospitals announce vaccine mandate for employees

Hospitals stress the vaccine is necessary to protect employees and patients.

"We've got to be respectful of our employees and their concerns, but we're also asking them to recognize that we're trying to look at it as best we can for their safety as well," Lord said.

The deadlines for employees to get vaccinated at local hospitals range.

For Cone Health, team members have until October 1 to comply with the requirement and must submit proof of vaccination by October 8.

Novant Health is requiring team members to be fully vaccinated by September 15.

WFBH said that all employees must be fully vaccinated by October 31.