Geisinger, Northwestern reveal updated vaccination, testing policies

Danville, Pa.-based Geisinger and Chicago-based Northwestern Medicine are among the latest health systems to update their vaccination policies amid the latest COVID-19 wave.

Geisinger, a nine-hospital system with nearly 24,000 employees, is requiring that all workers be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 15. 

"Based on overwhelming evidence that the COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective, we believe this is the right decision at the right time to protect our patients and employees and slow the spread of this deadly virus in our communities," Geisinger President and CEO Jaewon Ryu, MD, said in a news release. "We understand that some employees who have consciously chosen to not get vaccinated may be disappointed by this decision. We hope they will understand that this is a necessary step to protect the health of our patients and their colleagues."

Geisinger's requirement applies to current employees as well as new employees, faculty, medical staff, residents, fellows, temporary workers, trainees, volunteers, students and temporary staff. New employees must be vaccinated as a condition of employment beginning Oct. 15. 

For employees who comply with the vaccine requirement or receive an exemption, Geisinger will pay a one-time $500 bonus in late October, the system said. Executive leadership employees are excluded from receiving the bonus.

As of Aug. 25, about 70 percent of Geisinger employees were fully vaccinated.

Northwestern has also updated its policy. The 11-hospital system previously held back on a vaccination requirement but has now decided to require vaccination or testing for employees.

Chris King, a spokesperson for Northwestern, attributed the decision to "the spread of the COVID-19 delta variant and its risk to those with underlying medical conditions and children under 12 who are not yet eligible to receive a vaccine."

Mr. King said Northwestern physicians and staff must complete vaccination or receive a medical or religious exemption by Oct. 31.  Employees who do not comply with the vaccination requirement or receive an exemption must undergo weekly COVID-19 testing. 

"The health and safety of our staff and patients remains our highest priority," said Mr. King.

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