Providence caregivers will be required to get vaccinated against COVID-19 after the health care network announced its new mandate this week. The multi-state organization joins a growing number of employers requiring workers to get the vaccine as the delta variant surges across the country.
For Washington state, the new policy, announced Friday, means all Providence caregivers must get vaccinated by Sept. 30. Those “unable” to get the vaccine, according to spokesperson Chris Thomas, will be required to sign a declination and follow additional protocols, including enhanced COVID-19 testing, mandatory vaccine-related education and other infection prevention requirements.
“Until vaccinations reach critical mass in the U.S., we will continue to see ongoing outbreaks that put the most vulnerable members of our community at greater risk,” Providence CEO Dr. Rod Hochman said in a statement. “Having been on the front lines since the beginning, we know this is not sustainable for our communities or our caregivers. We also know the COVID-19 vaccines remain safe and effective tools for preventing severe illness from the virus.”
As one of the largest health systems in the nation, Hochman added that Providence has an “opportunity to lead by example.”
The decision to require the shots came after “careful deliberation, including an ethical discernment,” according to a news release.
Earlier this week, Thomas reported that Providence’s hospitals in Centralia and Olympia were “very full,” with more individuals coming through emergency departments.
The concerning news comes as Lewis County surpasses the 200 mark in its new case rate, according to state data. Thurston County isn’t far behind, at 196.9 new cases per 100,000 as of Friday afternoon. The state as a whole is approaching an infection level equal to this spring’s fourth wave peak.
State and local health officials have said that unvaccinated individuals are fueling the surge. In Lewis County, that’s the majority of residents.
Previously, Providence employees were only required to disclose their vaccination status. Now, the health care system joins a growing number of hospitals — and employers in general — requiring workers to get the shot. That includes hospitals from Seattle to Spokane. Last week, King County’s health officer recommended all hospitals mandate vaccines for their caregivers.
This week, the state of California also announced it would require health care workers to get the jab as a fifth wave moves the nation back in the fight against the respiratory illness.
At the same time, the Washington State Hospital Association is urging all hospitals to do the same, pointing to data showing the majority of seriously ill COVID-19 patients are unvaccianted.
“We understand that this is a controversial decision,” the association wrote Thursday. “But we still believe that it is the right thing to do.”