Cleveland Clinic, UPMC among systems holding off on COVID-19 vaccine mandates

Dozens of hospitals and health systems have decided to require COVID-19 vaccination for employees since March. However, some health systems have chosen not to mandate vaccines as of Aug. 6.

Pittsburgh-based UPMC told Becker's that it is not mandating vaccines for any of its employees at its hospitals. It said it recognizes that vaccination and targeted mask use are key strategies in quelling the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The $23 billion healthcare provider and insurer said it will continue its vaccine advocacy and outreach efforts, make vaccines easily and readily available for all, and maintain employee, patient and visitor masking requirements in all of its facilities regardless of vaccination status. 

"UPMC continues to evaluate how we can further strengthen our protocols, particularly in settings with highly vulnerable patient populations," said spokesperson Susan Manko.

Cleveland Clinic has not announced a vaccine requirement for its staff at its 24 hospitals either. Alicia Reale Cooney, a spokesperson for the health system, said it's focusing on encouraging "caregivers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, providing education and making vaccination as accessible as possible."

"As the pandemic evolves, we will continue to monitor the situation," Ms. Cooney told Becker's.

Chicago-based Northwestern Medicine, which has 11 hospitals across Illinois, has decided it will not mandate vaccines for its employees. Chris King, the director of media relations and communications, told Becker's that the response to choosing not to mandate the vaccine for its staff has been overwhelmingly positive. To date, more than three-fourths of its staff are already vaccinated, Mr. King said.

"For our unvaccinated employees, we are trying to get a better understanding of why they have not received the vaccine," Mr. King said. "Is there a medical reason or religious exemption? If those are not the reason, then we want to create an environment where we can provide information and learning opportunities to educate any employee that may have questions or concerns on being vaccinated."

Cincinnati-based Mercy Health is taking a market-based approach to mandating vaccines.

"The Cincinnati [and Kentucky] market of Mercy Health will require vaccines; however, as a ministry, Bon Secours Mercy Health is not requiring vaccines at this time, " Maureen Richmond, vice president of integrated communications told Becker's. "We are leaving it up to the market."

On Aug. 6, the health system said it's encouraging its employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccine and is closely following the local, state and federal guidelines regarding vaccine mandates. Yet, it is still deliberating whether it will require its staff to get inoculated at other locations, WBKN 27 reported.

The health system said each of its employees is critical for supporting the needs of its patients and that their health and safety remain among its top priorities.

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