Cincinnati-area hospitals discuss mandatory COVID-19 vaccines for staff

COVID-19 vaccine
COVID-19 vaccine(WVIR)
Published: Aug. 2, 2021 at 10:11 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 2, 2021 at 11:05 AM EDT
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - With COVID-19 case counts rising again amid the rapid spread of the Delta variant, Cincinnati-area hospitals are considering mandatory vaccines for staff.

“At this time, discussions are currently ongoing for COVID-19 vaccination requirements in hospitals. This boils down to a decision on an individual system/ hospital level,” said Christa Hyson, spokeswoman for The Health Collaborative. “There’s a lot of conversations amongst health care leaders, physicians, addition to legal, HR, etc… I do not have a definitive or timeline for this.”

UC Health requires vaccination for some communicable diseases such as tuberculosis, hepatitis and influenza but not the COVID-19 vaccine at this time, says UC Health spokeswoman Amanda Nageleisen.

“However, we strongly encourage employees to receive vaccination against COVID-19, and the majority of our workforce has chosen to do so,” she said. “The safety of our staff, patients, families and communities is our highest concern, and we’ll continue to evaluate our policies as needed.”

All other Cincinnati-area hospital groups we contacted for this story do not require staff to have the vaccine but say they strongly encourage it.

That includes Cincinnati Children’s, Mercy Health, Premier Health and TriHealth.

A spokesman for Children’s said in a statement to FOX19 NOW:

“Cincinnati Children’s encourages all medical providers, employees, and community members to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Cincinnati Children’s has encouraged but not required employees to report vaccination status. The safety of all of our patients, families, and employees is always our top priority.

“Cincinnati Children’s has helped evaluate COVID-19 vaccines through clinical trials involving adults and children, which have demonstrated the safety and effectiveness of these vaccines. As a result, Cincinnati Children’s is a strong advocate of vaccinating eligible children and adults to guard against COVID-19.

“We have a unique responsibility to children 11 years old or younger, who currently aren’t eligible for vaccination against COVID.

“Since not everyone can be vaccinated, we at Cincinnati Children’s follow a set of practices to protect everyone. These practices include masking, distancing, frequent hand washing, daily self-screening by employees, and avoiding working while ill. Vaccines are an important component of this comprehensive approach to infection prevention.”

We asked each hospital group for the percentage of their employees who have received the COVID-19 vaccine but did not receive them, at least so far.

The spokesman for Children’s said “such numbers are unavailable. As the statement notes: Cincinnati Children’s has encouraged but not required employees to report vaccination status.”

“Vaccines are the safest and best way to lower the COVID-19 infection rate. We are constantly evaluating what is best for our patients and team members, said Michael Mattingly, a spokesman for Tri-Health

“Regardless of whether an employee chooses to receive the vaccine, Premier Health continues to take appropriate steps for patient safety, such as requiring employees to wear the appropriate personal protective equipment when caring for patients,” said Jennifer Burcham, Premier spokeswoman.

Nanette Bentley of Mercy Health said: “We are consistently reviewing local, state and national guidelines. We continue to provide robust information and resources for our associates to inform their decision-making process. Our COVID-19 vaccine clinics are ongoing, and we are seeing strong interest in receiving the vaccine from our frontline associates. Each associate who works for Mercy Health is critical to supporting patient care and health care operations, now and always. Our associates’ health and safety are our top priorities.”

The Mayo Clinic and dozens of other health care professional societies and organizations nationwide recently announced they would require staff to get the vaccine.

The federal government also will begin requiring its employees to get COVID-19 vaccines or meet strict health and safety requirements, President Joe Biden announced last week.

Parts of Ohio including Hamilton County are now being asked by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to mask indoors regardless of vaccination status.

As of Sunday, the Ohio Department of Health reported 857 new COVID-19 cases and 17 more hospitalizations.

Last week, on Tuesday, cases nearly doubled from just under 550 to over 1,000 for the first time since mid-May.

There have been 1,130,134 total cases, 61,939 hospitalizations, and 20,492 deaths in Ohio since the start of the pandemic, according to the state department of health.

As of Sunday, a total of 1,092,123 people were listed as “recovered.” Recovered is categorized as cases with a symptom onset date of over 21 days who have not died.

Last week, Gov. Mike DeWine said 99% of the COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths in 2021 since January were not vaccinated.

More than 5.3 million Ohioans and 161 million people nationally are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

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