NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (WPRI) — A Southeastern New England hospital system recently announced it would be mandating COVID-19 vaccines for all staff, but only once at least one is fully approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
12 News obtained a July 14 letter to Southcoast Health employees from President & CEO Keith Hovan, which states, “COVID-19 vaccination will be required for employees, providers and staff once the FDA, as anticipated, has granted full approval of at least one of the vaccines.”
Hovan stated more details will be forthcoming, and “while a booster shot may become a future requirement, it is not currently under discussion.”
Dr. Dani Hackner, chief of Medicine for Southcoast Health and member of the senior leadership team says, the hospital feels healthcare workers have a different responsibility to get the vaccine.
“Everyone understands that healthcare providers and staff have a different responsibility that the general public. In the case of hospitals we have a lot of folks that are vulnerable, they are called immuno-supressed,” he added. “And so we as healthcare providers and staff have a higher responsibility to make sure that we are part of the solution and protect our patients and part of that is getting ourselves vaccinated.”
In an email to 12 News, Southcoast Health spokesperson Shawn Badgley said the vaccine mandate would apply to all employees, which includes contract workers, volunteers, medical and other clinical staff with facility privileges, temps, students and on-site preceptors, et al., “unless granted an exception for medical and/or religious reasons.”
Badgley said there is a similar policy in place for the flu vaccine.
Any possible repercussions for not getting vaccinated have yet to be determined, and are part of an ongoing discussion, according to Badgley.
“Our program is meant to protect our patients, workforce, and community rather than be punitive,” Badgley said.
Badgley also said a deadline to receive a COVID-19 vaccination has yet to be determined, but would depend on several factors, “including full FDA approval, vaccine supply, and staffing considerations.”
In the letter to employees Hovan said the decision is one that “has made after much deliberation and discussion.”
“As we look ahead, the timing of this vaccination requirement will likely coincide with the return of many more of our remote workers to their Southcoast offices, making immunity even more important. This process is under way already and will be completed in September,” Hovan stated.
According to Badgley, a “vast majority” of the Southcoast Health workforce has already been vaccinated.
Internal COVID-19 vaccine clinics for Southcoast Health staff began in mid-December.