Essentia Health to require COVID vaccines for employees

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Essentia Health made what they called a "bold, but necessary move" Wednesday, announcing that all staff must get fully vaccinated for COVID-19 by November 1st as a conditoin of employment.

Officials said the decision was made after careful consideration.

"Our patients count on us at the most vulnerable times in their lives. Thus, it is critically important for healthcare workers whose duty it is to protect vulnerable and critically ill populations to receive the vaccine and help protect our patients," Dr. Jon Pryor, President of Essentia Health said.

Employees must receive their first dose of vaccine by Oct. 1 and their second dose in a two-dose series by Nov. 1.

Essentia Health says the policy affects all of their employees, including remote workers, along with volunteers, students, non-employed medical staff, Board members and others who provide services within our facilities.

There will be a process for requesting a medical exemption based on CDC guidelines or a religious exemption.

"After studying this, after looking at the legal implications, after thinking about—to the best of our ability—all the pros and the cons, to listening, to talking to leaders and ethicists on the topic, we felt this was the best course of action," Pryor said.

So far, Essentia said feedback has been positive, but they do expect some pushback.

"By keeping our employees healthy and safe, we are less likely to lose them to COVID or quarantine, so I think in the long run, this is going to be beneficial for being able to have the resources to care for patients and most importantly, its going to be reassuring to our patients that we are doing everything possible to keep them safe," Pryor said.

According to offcials, Essentia has administered close to 200,000 doses of vaccine since late December 2020.

Essentia says, with community transmission on the rise across our region due to the contagious delta variant, the need for vaccination continues to be crucial.