Boulder Community Health and SCL Health announced Thursday they will require all employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19 by Nov. 1, joining four major Front Range hospital systems that already have mandates.
Both new mandates require medical staff, volunteers, independent contractors, vendors, trainees and students to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Both also allow exemptions for medical and religious reasons. Boulder Community Health said anyone with an exemption will be required to wear a mask at all times in BCH facilities and a face shield in patient care areas, and will be tested weekly for COVID-19.
“We take our obligation to protect the health of our patients, visitors, employees and the communities we serve very seriously,” Robert Vissers, president and CEO of BCH, said in a news release. “I’m proud and grateful that the great majority of our employees and physicians have already demonstrated their belief in the COVID-19 vaccine by getting fully vaccinated.”
BCH and SCL employees who do not get vaccinated by Nov. 1 and do not qualify for an exemption face disciplinary action, including the possibility of losing their jobs. The mandate doesn’t apply to SCL’s hospitals in Montana, where state law doesn’t allow employers to require vaccination.
J.P. Valin, executive vice president and chief clinical officer of SCL Health, said more than 300 billion doses have been administered in the United States, and the vaccines have been proven safe and effective.
SCL Health operates Saint Joseph Hospital, Good Samaritan Medical Center and Platte Valley Medical Center, among other hospitals and medical facilities in Colorado.
“It is essential that all people in the health care workforce get vaccinated against COVID-19 for the safety of our patients and our colleagues,” he said in a news release. “We care about our patients and the associates who care for them.”
Children’s Hospital Colorado also put out a statement in support of vaccinating employees, but stopped short of a full mandate. Employees who choose not to get vaccinated will have to wear additional protective equipment and undergo regular testing after Oct. 1.
None of the vaccines have been approved for children under 12, which make up about 80% of the hospital’s patient population. In general, kids have been less likely than adults to experience serious complications from COVID-19, but children’s hospitals in other states have raised concerns that their risk may be higher from the delta variant.
“Vaccines are essential in the fight against COVID-19. With safe and effective vaccines widely available, this decision affirms our commitment to the safety and care for our team members and for those we serve,” Jena Hausmann, president and CEO of Children’s Colorado, said in a news release.
The news comes after UCHealth late in July announced it will mandate all employees receive the COVID-19 vaccination by Oct. 1. Banner Health, National Jewish Hospital and Denver Health also are requiring all employees to get the shot or find other work, unless they have a medical or religious exemption.
Two hospital systems with locations in Colorado haven’t announced mandates: HealthOne and Centura Health. Centura has offered employees a $500 bonus if they get vaccinated, and HealthOne is running prize drawings. Their employees in Denver have to be vaccinated, though, because of a citywide mandate for health care workers.
The Colorado Hospital Association and 18 other trade groups and nonprofits involved in health care released a statement Thursday expressing support for health care organizations that independently adopt policies requiring COVID-19 vaccination for employees and staff.
“Science has shown that the vaccines are safe and effective at substantially reducing the risks of becoming infected, spreading the virus to others and becoming severely ill or dying from the disease,” the statement said.
It will remain to be seen if the prospect of mandates in other facilities will nudge employers who are reluctant. The Colorado Health Care Association, which represents nursing homes, had said it would support a state mandate if it also applied to other health care sectors, to discourage employees who don’t want to get vaccinated from leaving to work in doctor’s office or home health agencies.
BCH cited the spread of the delta variant as one factor in its decision to require vaccination. About 99% of cases in Colorado in the last week of July were caused by delta, which is more contagious and may cause more severe illness.
“People can do a lot to safeguard themselves, their loved ones and the overall community through consistent masking, keeping a healthy distance when you’re around other people, and avoiding indoor spaces that don’t have plenty of fresh air from the outdoors,” said Susan Hagen, BCH’s medical staff president, in the release. “However, those measures just aren’t enough against highly infectious variants such as delta. The only way we’re going to defeat this virus is for everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated as soon as possible.”
This content was originally published here.