ST. LOUIS, MO — All employees of the four largest hospitals in St. Louis are required to get the COVID-19 vaccine by fall.
The hospitals made the requirement to counter the rising COVID-19 cases in Missouri as more contagious variants spread in the state.
The hospitals have different deadlines for the vaccine, although it is known that employees at SSN Health, Mercy Health, BJC HealthCare, and St. Luke's are required to get vaccinated by late September.
Chief clinical officer at Mercy Health, Dr. John Mohart, said the hospital has the duty to provide the safest environment for patients and employees.
"I think it's our duty to provide the safest work environment both for our coworkers and our patients, but also be part of the effort to stop the spread of the virus for all the communities we serve," said Mohart.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the vaccine has been proven to be effective and safe, as more than 100 million people across the country have been vaccinated.
Dr. Mohart also added that unvaccinated health workers have a bigger risk of catching and spreading the virus.
"When you see multiple patients in a day, whether you're a nurse or physician, you're at risk for spreading that virus." he added.
Early this year, health care workers are the first group in line to receive the vaccine. However, there are still many of them who haven't received one after seven months.
Mohart said about one-third of the employees had not been vaccinated yet at Mercy Health. Meanwhile, a quarter of BJC HealthCare workers haven't received their vaccine, said the hospital official.
Dr. Clay Dunagan, an infectious disease specialist and chief clinical officer at St. Louis BJC, said that officials from St. Luke, BJC HealthCare, SSM Health, and Mercy Health want hospital workers to get protected before reaching fall. He added that setting the deadline will give employees an idea of getting shot after getting their questions answered.
"There's a lot of focus on the issue of personal liberty and whether anyone has a right to tell someone what to put in their bodies, and I get that argument," said Dunagan.
"But the fact is people who are unvaccinated have a risk of dying from COVID, they have a very high risk of getting COVID. … Maybe most importantly, the person who doesn't get vaccinated is potentially a person who could infect someone." he added.
During this period, Dunagan expected that some employees would likely quit before receiving the shots, just like when the health system requires employees to take the influenza vaccine.
"We will almost certainly have employees that just don't believe vaccination is in their future and will in the final moment decide they're going to seek employment elsewhere," Dunagan said.
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