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Northern Arizona Healthcare to require employee vaccinations

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Northern Arizona Healthcare (NAH) announced Monday that it will require all employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of the year.

The decision is the result of “significant study, discussion and consideration,” according to a press release that referenced patient, family, staff and volunteer health as reasoning for the decision.

“Providing the safest environment for those who come to us for care, as well as for our colleagues, is how we live up to the trust our communities place in us. The rising threat of more damage to be done by the Delta and other variants on the horizon has made it clear that the time is now to take action,” Flo Spyrow, Northern Arizona Healthcare’s president and chief executive officer, said in the press release. “The overwhelming evidence that the COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective supports this, enabling us to protect our patients and colleagues, and ultimately slowing the spread of this deadly virus in our communities.”

The announcement came shortly after President Joe Biden’s announcement requiring vaccinations for “workers in most healthcare settings that receive Medicare or Medicaid reimbursements,” including NAH. NAH said in the release that the decision was made “right before” this change and that it is “proud to have made this decision in [their] own and proactive consideration of all who count on the organization for care.”

“Although many may disagree with this action from the president, we can all agree that there is no higher priority than patient health and safety,” the release said.

A hospital in upstate New York will have to stop delivering babies due to the number of employees resigning over the state's Covid-19 vaccination requirements.

The requirement also aligns with recommendations from the CDC and Coconino and Yavapai counties.

Around 80% of employees at NAH are already fully vaccinated or intend to receive the vaccine, according to the release. NAH has planned initiatives to help its employees become vaccinated by Dec. 31.

There will be a process to apply for medical or religious exemptions, similar to NAH’s other vaccination requirements. NAH says it will share more about this process with staff later in the week, and has a media call set for today.

“With new variants taking hold, causing rising COVID-19 numbers in our hospitals, locally and regionally, we know that our communities also cannot afford further strain on the existing staffing challenges faced by us locally, and by healthcare systems across the country,” Spyrow said, “Our colleagues have been in the line of fire since the start of the pandemic, under challenging and unprecedented circumstances to continue delivering needed care close to home. It’s time now to make sure they receive what they need to be as safe as possible not just as healthcare workers, but as members of their families, leaders in their communities and contributors overall.”

NAH recently updated COVID-19 guidelines in its locations at the beginning of August. The guidelines include requiring masks indoors as well as limited visitation and capacity.

More information on NAH’s COVID response can be found at nahealth.com/COVID-19.

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