Wisconsin health system: Some unvaccinated workers face new deadline

Milwaukee-based Froedtert Health is warning some unvaccinated employees that they will lose their jobs if they do not receive a new exemption or Novavax's recently authorized COVID-19 vaccine, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Sept. 8.

The FDA authorized Novavax's COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use in adults in July. Novavax's COVID-19 vaccine is protein-based and does not use mRNA technology.

Some Froedtert Health employees received exemptions to the health system's vaccination policy after indicating that fetal cell lines in mRNA vaccines conflicted with their religious beliefs or medical situation, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Considering the differences in vaccines, the health system has a new policy, first reported by NBC affiliate WTMJ.

A health system statement shared with Becker's reads: "The Novavax vaccination for COVID-19 is now available. This protein-based vaccination option eliminates conflicts for those staff with religious or medical exemptions caused by mRNA-based vaccines and other concerns. Since those staff are now eligible for a vaccination that does not conflict with their religious beliefs or medical situation, their exemption will expire."

"This affects less than 1 percent of our staff. We continue to allow valid medical exemptions and sincerely held religious exemptions for the COVID-19 vaccine. Impacted staff were provided the opportunity to apply for an exemption after learning the previous exemption kept on file was no longer valid."

An email sent to a Froedtert Health employee obtained by WTMJ says employees whose exemption will expire and have not received a new one must receive the first dose of Novavax's COVID-19 vaccine by Sept. 21 or they will be considered voluntarily resigned. Employees whose exemption will expire and have not received a new one must receive the second dose of Novavax's COVID-19 vaccine by Oct. 19 or be considered voluntarily resigned.

Froedtert Health provides various health services, including 11 hospitals and health centers, home care, laboratory, health insurance, employer health services and workplace clinics, and digital health solutions.

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