Spectrum Health allows vaccine mandate exemptions for workers with natural immunity

Spectrum Health will allow exemptions to vaccinations for employees who prove natural immunity to COVID-19, the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based system confirmed to Becker's.

The 14-hospital system announced it would require the vaccine on July 28. As part of its mandate, Spectrum is allowing religious exemptions. Medical exemptions have been determined by clinical, vaccine and infectious disease experts on the system's medical exemption committee, consistent with the FDA label and available research to date, Spectrum said. Now, the medical exemption committee is also allowing exemptions for natural immunity to the virus. 

"As new research has emerged, the medical exemption committee has recommended to allow a temporary exemption for those who have had a positive PCR or antigen test for COVID-19 from a CLIA-certified lab plus a positive qualitative antibody test within the past three months," the system said. 

"While we still recommend vaccination for people with prior COVID-19 infection, according to this new research, there is increasing evidence that natural infection affords protection from COVID-19 reinfection and severe symptoms for a period of time. Current studies are not clear on how long natural immunity protects from reinfection," said Spectrum. "Vaccine trials and real-world data have shown that it is safe for previously infected individuals to receive the COVID-19 vaccine; side effects following vaccination were no greater in this group."

Spectrum said the deferral requirements will be canceled, extended or modified if future evidence shows significant waning of this protection, longer-lasting protection or evidence of full immunity.

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