UnityPoint hospital chief explains decision to require vaccines

WATERLOO, Iowa (KWWL) – UnityPoint Health is requiring all employees and team members to be fully immunized against COVID-19 by November 1, 2021.

The company made the announcement Thursday, making it the latest healthcare system to require vaccinations for all employees as COVID-19 cases in the country continue to rise.

UnityPoint has hospitals in Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin and employs more than 33,000 people. The company says everyone on the team will need to be vaccinated, whether or not they provide direct patient care. If they don’t, UnityPoint says employees will be subject to voluntary resignation or termination.

“We thought we had to be an example to the community,” said UnityPoint Health Waterloo chief medical officer Dr Russell Adams. “One of our priority values ​​is the safety of our patients, the provision of this care and a safe environment for our patients. Part of our work is an example to the community regarding vaccine safety and the need to vaccinate. “

Dr Adams said hospital officials are considering the delta variant and the rise in cases in their own hospitals. From Friday afternoon, the 14-day average positivity rate in Black Hawk County is 12.8% and 20 patients are currently hospitalized in the county with the virus. UnityPoint Allen Hospital in Waterloo currently has 12 COVID-19 patients, most of whom are unvaccinated.

Between July 28 and August 4, the state as a whole added more than 3,500 new cases, a 65% increase over new cases the previous week.

“When we look at our measurements, we have the ability to sort of track what that looks like,” Dr. Adams said. “We fear a significant increase in infections that will overwhelm our facilities across our state. “

UnityPoint also looked at how other healthcare systems are approaching vaccines, CDC guidance, vaccine effectiveness, and the contribution of internal infectious disease experts and hospital leaders to their decision making.

Similar to the hospital’s requirements for other vaccines, employees will be able to request exemptions for medical or religious reasons. A temporary deferral will also be available for pregnant women, but UnityPoint will still strongly encourage them to get the vaccine.

“We have had a significant number of our employees who were sick with the virus last year,” Dr Adams said. “We don’t want to go through it this year. We cannot suffer the loss of staff due to the disease of the virus.”

Dr Adams was among the first staff to get vaccinated when UnityPoint received its first vaccine delivery in December 2020. He has seen the devastation of the virus, up close both on the frontlines at work and at home . A family member almost lost his battle with the virus.

He wants the community to know that it is not about politics, good or bad, but the science behind the decision. He said the vaccines are safe and effective.

“The vaccine has been shown to be safe and effective. With all vaccines there is the possibility of a reaction, but when you look at the numbers, the reactions are very, very low, and the risk of infection is high.” , did he declare. . “We have seen people who contracted the virus, and they recovered from it but did not come back to normal.”

In July, Health of the Trinity announced that it would require employees at certain MercyOne sites across Iowa to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Employees at MercyOne sites in Dubuque, Dyersville, New Hampton, Mason City, Clinton, Sioux City and Primghar must provide proof of vaccination by September 21.

The requirement does not include MercyOne Northeast Iowa in Waterloo.

Hospitals and clinics at the University of Iowa did not require its 16,000 employees to be vaccinated, but said 90% of staff had rolled up their sleeves.

“We are proud that nearly 90% of our 16,000+ staff have chosen to be vaccinated without a warrant in place. As with everything with COVID-19, we are continuously monitoring the local, regional, and national situation, including CDC and FDA guidelines, and vaccination rates for our staff and the community. We have and will continue to assess our security protocols as the situation develops and evolves. Our job has always been to provide our staff with the information they need to feel safe and comfortable in their decision to get vaccinated. We also ensured easy access to the vaccine. “

UIHC Declaration

Dr Adams said a vaccine is a tool that will bring society back to normal, but people should still take basic precautions, like washing their hands frequently and being careful in crowded situations.

“We can’t resist what we went through last year, but I think it’s in our hands to control this,” he said. “Now we know more about the virus. We know our vaccines are safe and we just need to move on.”

The deadline for UnityPoint employees to get shot in the arm or risk losing their job is November 1.