Avera Health announced today that it will require full vaccination for its physicians, employees and volunteers by Dec. 1, 2021.
This policy also applies to students rotating in Avera facilities, contracted workers and vendors. Avera Health will consider exemptions for employees with medical contraindications and sincerely held religious beliefs. Employees who receive an exemption will be required to wear appropriate personal protective equipment and comply with regular COVID-19 testing and other preventive measures.
“As a health care ministry, Avera is called upon to provide a safe and protective environment for our patients, their families and our employees. This is consistent with our mission and values,” said David Erickson, MD, Chief Medical and Innovation Officer at Avera Health. “For decades, vaccination has been an important tool in public health. Avera has long been requiring vaccinations among its employees for influenza and other infectious diseases like measles.”
The Pfizer vaccine was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Aug. 23.
“Avera is an amazing, quality-driven organization. We want our employees to enjoy working in a safe and collaborative environment. Requiring a COVID-19 vaccine is consistent with our other Human Resources policies,” said Kim Jensen, Chief Human Resources Officer at Avera Health. “We already require annual vaccination against flu and we require a record of immunizations for new hires.”
The majority of Avera employees are already vaccinated for COVID-19 and, in an all-employee survey, a majority of employees voiced support for requiring vaccination. “The majority of our employees have already turned to vaccination to protect themselves, their families and their patients,” Jensen added.
A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study shows that unvaccinated people are 29 times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 than those who are vaccinated. The study also found that unvaccinated people are about five times more likely to be infected with COVID-19 than those who are not. When uncommon breakthrough infections do happen in vaccinated persons, most often the illness is mild.
“COVID vaccines are doing what they’re supposed to do – and that’s reducing hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19. No vaccine can offer absolute protection. But the fact remains that the most effective thing people can do to prevent the spread of COVID is to get vaccinated,” said Kevin Post, DO, Chief Medical Officer for Avera Medical Group.
Vaccines are safe and effective. “Millions of people have safely received the vaccines. With over half of the U.S. population vaccinated plus millions across the world, COVID vaccines are among the most tested vaccines ever,” Erickson said. “Adverse reactions are extremely rare.”
Hospitalizations of COVID patients across the United States are topping 100,000 – including young adults and children. “Those hospitalizations are due to the contagious nature of COVID-19,” Erickson added.
Due to increased pediatric cases with the Delta variant, children ages 0-11 remain vulnerable because there is not an approved vaccine for that age group. “Adults can help protect children by getting vaccinated,” Post said.
Numerous medical organizations support the requirement of COVID-19 vaccination for health care workers including the American Hospital Association, American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Nurses Association, American College of Physicians, Catholic Health Association and more.