Hospital execs worry workers are abusing religious exemptions for vaccination

The often simple form that healthcare workers submit to receive a religious exemption from COVID-19 vaccination is casting doubt on the integrity of the claims of those who submit the form, leaving hospital executives unsure of next steps, Politico reported Feb. 28. 

The vaccination mandate for healthcare workers requires all staff at health systems participating in Medicare or Medicaid programs to receive a COVID-19 shot, pending a medical or religious exemption. However, the pathway to being granted religious exemptions is simple; in many cases it only consists of a short, one-page form. 

"The religious exemption is not a tough standard for a worker to submit," Michelle Strowhiro, an employment lawyer who advises healthcare facilities, told Politico. "There can be a level of people making things up, unfortunately."

Some workers seeking the exemptions are copy and pasting wording for their exemption form straight from online anti-vaccination sites, Ms. Strowhiro told Politico

Almost all mainstream religious leaders have encouraged their followers to get vaccinated, including the pope. Some people, though, take issue with the use of cell lines from aborted fetuses in the research that led to the vaccines.

"There's nothing in the Bible or anything that says, 'Thou shalt not take a vaccination,'" Robert Peterson, CEO of Millinocket (Maine) Regional Hospital, which reached a 100 percent vaccination rate without religious exemptions, told Politico.

Although exemptions have allowed hospitals to hold onto their staff, some disability advocates are worried at the idea of possibly being treated by someone who is unvaccinated. 

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