Mercy requires vaccinations for all employees

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

All employees at Mercy Health hospitals and clinics — including those in Carroll County — will be required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine beginning Sept. 30.

The announcement of the new requirement came last week as the new Delta variant of COVID-19 continues to spread rapidly in Missouri, where Mercy has hospitals and clinics in Joplin, Springfield, St. Louis and other locations. Mercy also serves communities in Arkansas and Oklahoma, where COVID numbers are also increasing because of the Delta variant.

According to Mercy spokesman Jennifer Cook, the positive impact of the vaccine is easy to see.

Right now, she said, the majority of Mercy patients recently hospitalized with the novel coronavirus have not been vaccinated.

“What we are seeing aligns with the Associated Press analysis of CDC data,” said Dr. John Mohart, Mercy’s senior vice president of clinical services. “More than 95 percent of recent hospitalizations across the U.S. are people who aren’t vaccinated. The data is clear. Vaccination is key to saving lives.”

Cook said the Mercy system is seeing similar numbers across the region.

“Our cases have ticked up,” Cook said, “but not where we were when we were having a surge over Christmas and January. We’re not at zero. We had zero COVID patients there for a while, even in Rogers. We’re at a few more than that. Seeing the headlines about Springfield and the hospital there, they’ve got more COVID patients than ever. That’s our hot spot right now, at least for Mercy.”

In Carroll County, the number of active cases reported by the Arkansas Department of Health on Monday stood at 72, the highest number since February, when more than 140 active cases were reported in a week. In Carroll County, the number of deaths related to the virus stands now stands at 47.

Statewide, the ADH reported Monday that there were 6,605 active cases statewide, with 497 of those being treated in a hospital, 196 in intensive care and 81 requiring the aid of a ventilator. The statewide death toll from the virus stands at 5,948.

To date, 1,010,559 Arkansans have been fully vaccinated and another 228,634 have been partially vaccinated. Those numbers represent approximately 48 percent of Arkansans aged 12 and up.

Cook said that as things stand, approximately 75 percent of all Mercy employees are already vaccinated, leaving only 25 percent subject to the new requirement, which brings Mercy in line with more than 20 other health care organizations across the country that have also instituted similar requirements.

A news release from Mercy issued last week stated that “vaccination serves the common good, protects patients who come to us for care and is crucial to safeguarding public health and bringing an end to the pandemic.”

Both Pfizer and Moderna have applied to the Food and Drug Administration for full approval of their COVID-19 vaccines, which is expected soon. COVID-19 vaccines have been deemed safe and have proved effective with over 171 million Americans already vaccinated.

“It is essential that we take these steps in order to protect the health of our co-workers and our patients at Mercy,” said Dr. William Sistrunk, an infectious disease specialist at Mercy. “As health care leaders in our communities, it is important we set the standard to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Vaccination is our best defense against the virus and already has provided many of our co-workers with the protection they need to care for our patients. Our goal is to ensure the safest possible work environment for our co-workers and patients while also being a part of the effort to stop the spread of the virus in the communities we serve.”

Cook said Mercy plans to work with its employees to develop a plan for compliance ahead of the scheduled deadline and continues to strongly encourage vaccination throughout the community as well.

“We’ve given this a lot of thought and really considered all angles,” Cook said. “Based on the many millions of doses of vaccine that have been given and the efficacy we’re seeing, yes, we think it’s definitely making a difference and it is protecting people. We’re trying to set an example and trying to persuade more people that it’s for the common good.”

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