Every day we have the privilege of helping people heal and become their best, healthiest selves. These individuals turn to us when they are most vulnerable and trust that we will care for them safely. To serve them well, we also must be our healthiest and best selves and the best way to be healthy amidst this ongoing pandemic is vaccination.
In June, we announced that vaccination would be required for all our employees and physicians following the full FDA authorization of a COVID-19 vaccine. Today, however, we have more information about the importance of getting vaccinated now. The COVID-19 Delta variant is more contagious than prior strains and has, therefore, caused rising cases. In some parts of the country, hospitals are overwhelmed.
While the FDA has indicated full authorization is likely happening soon, with lives on the line, it is important that we take action now and as such will require vaccination for all employees and physicians by October 1, 2021. The science is clear: this is the very best way to protect yourself, your families, your patients and your communities. With nearly 18 months of data and hundreds of millions of doses administered, it is also clear that the vaccines are safe and effective, especially in protecting against severe illness, hospitalization and death.
It is extremely encouraging to know that the vast majority of our workforce –nearly 90 percent– are already fully vaccinated. Those not yet vaccinated will be required to have their first shot as early as September 3, 2021 in order to safely receive their second shot by October 1, 2021. To help answer any questions you have, we’ve created a Q&A document (below) and your manager is a wonderful resource as well.
Questions & Answers
Why are we setting October 1, 2021 as the date by which employees and physicians must be vaccinated? What about full FDA approval?
The FDA has indicated full approval of a vaccine is likely to happen soon. With lives on the line, we cannot wait. The Delta variant is more contagious and cases are rising. The best way to protect yourself, your family, patients, colleagues and your community is vaccination. With nearly 18 months of data and hundreds of millions of doses administered, it is clear that the vaccines are safe and effective, especially in protecting against severe illness, hospitalization and death.
What happens if someone is not vaccinated by October 1, 2021?
Employees, physicians, contractors, volunteers and students who have not been vaccinated or received an exemption by October 1, 2021 will not be allowed to work until they are fully vaccinated. Employees must use accrued PTO or vacation time during this period.
If after November 1, 2021 the employee still has not been immunized or granted an exemption, the employee will be found not in compliance with the policy and they will be removed from payroll.
If vaccinations work, why do vaccinated individuals need to wear masks again in non-patient care areas?
Vaccinations are extremely effective but there are some breakthrough cases. These individuals can spread the virus, and when cases are on the rise, we must do everything possible to protect those who are unable to be vaccinated such as children or those who are immunocompromised. While not as effective as vaccination, we know that masking and/or physical distancing help reduce the rate of infection.
Do I need to provide a copy of my vaccination card to my manager?
We have information already showing that nearly 90 percent of employees have been vaccinated. If we do not have information about your vaccination status, your manager will be reaching out to you to either get that information or confirm your plans to get vaccinated.
What if someone misses the September 3, 2021 deadline but still wants to remain working here after October 1, 2021?
We hope you will plan ahead now and not miss the September 3 deadline. If you do miss the September 3 deadline, you still should have time to get the Pfizer shot or the single dose J&J vaccine.
Will medical and religious exemptions be allowed? If so, how does someone request an exemption?
Anyone who cannot receive COVID-19 vaccination due to medical reasons or declines for religious reasons may request an exemption by contacting their local Occupational/Employee Health Office. Individuals seeking an exemption will be required to complete a formal exemption request form and provide either medical documentation from their primary care or specialist physician. If requesting a religious exemption, the individual will be required to complete a formal religious accommodation request form and may be required to provide additional information and/or documentation about the religious practice(s) or belief(s) or written explanation regarding their religious exemption request.If approved, the individual will be notified by the Occupational/Employee Health Office or Human Resources.
If someone is granted an exemption, do they have to wear a mask, get tested or take any other steps?
Unvaccinated staff and affiliates with medical or religious accommodations will be required to abide by all health and safety guidance created as part of our COVID-19 policies. These policies may include COVID-19 testing, social distancing, and mask requirements.
Does this affect vendors, volunteers, or anyone else?
Yes, all vendors, volunteers and other affiliated persons visiting any of our work locations (hospitals, office buildings, physician practices, etc.) must provide proof of vaccination to Occupational/Employee Health.
What if I work fully offsite?
All employees are required to be vaccinated as there may be times when you need to interact with colleagues in person or come on site.
What about flu vaccination?
As it has been in the past, all employees and physicians are required to be vaccinated against the flu. We will update the community when we have more information about the arrival of flu vaccine and timing of flu vaccine clinics.