SHELDON—While most of those employed by Sanford Health have already received the COVID-19 vaccine, the health system is taking it a step further by requiring all employees to get vaccinated by Nov. 1.
Sanford Sheldon Medical Center falls under the Sanford Health umbrella.
“This is the right thing to do for our patients and residents, people and communities,” said president and CEO of Sanford Health Bill Gassen in a news release. “As more contagious COVID-19 variants continue to spread and threaten our communities, we must do everything we can to protect each other and our loved ones.”
The emergence of the delta variant of the coronavirus helped trigger the decision by Sanford Health officials. The delta variant is a more potent, less preventable version of the coronavirus. It is the dominant strain in the United States.
Those who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus appear to have protection against the delta variant.
“It’s why we need to continue to drive for vaccination in general,” said chief physician for Sanford Health Jeremy Cauwels in a Zoom news conference Thursday. “Vaccination is extremely important. We are seeing a higher infection rate among kids, so we need to continue to push for family members to be vaccinated.”
Most clinicians at Sanford Health are already vaccinated, as only 10 percent remain unvaccinated. According to Sanford Health, 70 percent of nurses employed with the health system are fully vaccinated.
There are 1,500 doctors in Sanford Health’s system and 12,000 nurses employed by Sanford Health.
Numbers were not provided by Sanford Health of how many doctors and nurses are employed at Sanford Sheldon Medical Center. Vaccination rates at the Sheldon facility were also not provided.
While it is a new policy when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccines, it is a practice Sanford Health — one of the largest health systems in the United States — has been following already.
Sanford Health employees are already required to have several other vaccines, including the annual flu shot. The company does allow certain exemptions for medical or religious reasons.
“It’s the same as the flu shot in the past,” Cauwels said. “We know certain religions don’t allow for vaccinations.”
Unvaccinated Sanford Health employees have 100 days to get the vaccine or to provide one of the exceptions.
“That’s a big reason why we are giving them 100 days to sort through this,” Cauwels said. “We want to give people the time to ask questions with their medical providers, who are 90 percent vaccinated. We believe all members of our Sanford family deserve to be protected.”
Being vaccinated for COVID-19 will be a condition of Sanford Health employees after Nov. 1.
For employees of Sanford Health who are already vaccinated, the information is available in the system already. Any COVID-19 vaccine received in the past 12 months will qualify for the requirement.
Unvaccinated employees can get their COVID-19 vaccination at any time but must report it by Nov. 1.
“We have vaccines available at every site,” Cauwels said. “If someone from the Sanford family needs a vaccine, they can walk in and get it, so we are not planning a mass vaccination clinic.”