PEORIA — The COVID-19 vaccine is now mandatory for all OSF HealthCare employees, the health care organization announced Wednesday.
Called "Mission Partners" within the organization, all employees, regardless of position, will have to get the vaccine by the end of September.
Refusing to do so could result in disciplinary action up to termination, officials said.
"We did not make this decision lightly," said Dr. Mike Cruz, OSF's chief operating officer. "As health care providers, it is our ethical obligation to be vigilant about the safety of our patients. Vaccinations are credited with the decline in COVID-19 hospitalizations and cases across the country and throughout our Ministry, and we firmly believe that vaccination against COVID-19 is the best way to keep our patients and Mission Partners safe."
In a news release, OSF said requiring the vaccine is a policy that mirrors a pre-existing requirement, in which employees must receive the flu shot each year and stay current with other vaccinations, including those for mumps and rubella.
"Exemptions are available for religious conscience or medical reasons and must be formally requested, documented and approved," the organization noted in the release. "Any Mission Partner who does not qualify for an exemption and who chooses not to receive the COVID-19 vaccine may be subject to our disciplinary processes which could result in loss of employment."
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The decision affects around 24,000 people. OSF HealthCare spans both Illinois and Michigan and operates 150 different locations.
Based in Peoria, the health care organization is owned and operated by the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis.
In response to a question from The Pantagraph as to whether Carle Health employees would also face a similar requirement, the system said there's no formal requirement just yet.
"We encourage all individuals to get a COVID-19 vaccine because we know the clear benefits and safety of the vaccines," spokeswoman Lisa Slater said in a statement. "We have continued strong efforts to educate our staff on these facts and the majority of Carle Health team members, including 100% of Carle Health physician leaders and vice presidents, are fully vaccinated.
"Like many health systems and other employers, we are actively evaluating how to move toward vaccination for all team members. We will continue doing everything we can to protect our team members, patients, and the community we serve."
COVID-19 in Missouri and Illinois: By the numbers
NOTE: Beginning Monday, March 8, 2021, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) began posting county-level data showing “probable” COVID-19 cases detected by antigen testing. Using the historical data from the DHSS dashboard, we reconfigured this graph to include that number in the total.
NOTE: Missouri updated its data dashboard on Sept. 28. 2020, to delete duplicate cases. This resulted in a decrease of total cases which caused the daily count to reflect a negative number.
NOTE: Beginning Monday, March 8, 2021, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) began posting county-level data showing “probable” COVID-19 cases detected by antigen testing. Using historical data from the DHSS dashboard, we reconfigured this graph to include that number.
Note from St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force regarding the numbers for July 20: There was a delay in reporting some test results leading to the increase in reported hospital admissions.
Note from Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services: Note: Due to an abrupt change in data measures and the reporting platform issued by the White House on Monday, July 13, and effective Wednesday, July 15, Missouri Hospital Association (MHA) and the State of Missouri were unable to access hospitalization data during the transition. .
Note from Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services: The discrepancy in the number of deaths on July 19, 2020, was due a duplicate record being discovered by the Missouri DHSS.
Contact Lyndsay Jones at (309) 820-3275. Follow her on Twitter: @__lyndsayjones