COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
Major medical groups across the United States are calling for health care and long-term care employers to mandate employee vaccinations against the coronavirus amid a case surge led by a handful of states including Missouri.
The American Medical Association, the American College of Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Public Health Association have all called for health care organizations to require their workers to get the coronavirus vaccine.
Heidi Lucas, state director of the Missouri Nurses Association, said in the near future many hospitals across the state will require their employees to be vaccinated. Lucas said this will become more common as the delta variant continues to increase the COVID-19 death toll.
"I do think that a lot of hospitals over the course of the next year will most likely decide that this could be another required vaccine that they require their staff," Lucas said.
The delta variant has helped power a surge in Missouri that has the state fourth in the country for most coronavirus cases per capita over the last week.
Lucas said it is up to the individual hospital or health group to decide when and if to mandate vaccines for their employees. She said medical staff could be fired if they refuse vaccination requested by their employer.
"Thats just a decision people are going to have to make whether they will come and take the vaccine or whether they will lose their job," Lucas said.
SSM Health in Jefferson City is requiring all team members to be vaccinated by late September.
SSM Health said in a statement that it was joining hospitals across the country by implementing the requirement, citing the threat posed by the delta variant.
SSM Health team members can request an exemption for medical or religious reasons, which is consistent with the Catholic health care organization's practice for other required vaccines.
Other Missouri hospitals mandating employee vaccinations are Mercy Health St. Louis, SSM Health Jefferson City, Mercy Hospital Springfield, and St. Lukes St. Louis.
Boone Health in Columbia is not mandating employee vaccinations. The hospital said in a statement it continues to closely monitor positive rates, hospital admissions and other data to access its policy.
Boone Health, however, does encourage vaccinations, stating "vaccination is the best tool we have to diminish the spread and severity of COVID-19."
Boone Health said in its statement that most of its clinical staff and physicians are vaccinated, and the organization is continuing an education campaign to get all employees vaccinated.
MU Health Care doesn't require vaccination, either.
MU Health strongly encourages all employees to receive the coronavirus vaccine. In a statement, the hospital says more than 70% of MU Health Care employees have been vaccinated.
"Our leaders continue to monitor vaccine data, epidemiology and FDA recommendations as they evaluate whether to mandate vaccinations for our employees," MU Health said in a statement.