'We will protect our own': Mercy system mandates vaccines for staff amid COVID-19 surge

St. Louis-based Mercy will mandate COVID-19 vaccines for all current and future employees, the network announced July 7.  

The hospital set Sept. 30 as the deadline for all employees to become fully vaccinated. 

The announcement comes amid a COVID-19 surge that is stretching thin at least one of the health system’s facilities — Springfield, Mo.-based Mercy Hospital. 

On July 7, the hospital was treating 120 COVID-19-positive patients, with 88 percent of intensive care patients on ventilators, according to a tweet from Erik Frederick, chief administrative officer at the hospital. Less than 5 percent of the hospital's total COVID-19 census was fully vaccinated as of July 7.

"To serve our community we will protect our own," Mr. Frederick said regarding the systemwide vaccine mandate. 

The Mercy network spans 40,000 employees, with 75 percent of staff currently vaccinated, reported Fox affiliate WDAF-TV.

"It is essential that we take these steps in order to protect the health of our co-workers and our patients at Mercy," William Sistrunk, MD, a Mercy infectious disease specialist, said during a July 7 news briefing. "As healthcare 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."

Multiple hospitals in southern areas of Missouri are experiencing COVID-19 surges, particularly in rural spots where vaccination rates are low.

Springfield, Mo.-based CoxHealth Hospital responded to Mercy's July 7 announcement, saying they will not require COVID-19 vaccination for staff at this time.

"COVID-19 vaccines have proven to be highly efficacious and safe, can save lives, and end this pandemic. We strongly advocate for their use," CoxHealth's July 7 statement reads. "However, we understand that many in our community are hesitant to become vaccinated, including some employees."

The hospital went on diversion in late June, citing high infection rates and staffing issues.


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