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KU Health System is third local hospital network requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for all workers

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The University of Kansas Health System is requiring COVID-19 vaccinations of all employees, students, contractors and volunteers, becoming the third area hospital system to do so.

The system, the area’s largest hospital network, said the majority of its physicians and employees have already been vaccinated, “and they strongly encourage our patients and their friends and family to also get vaccinated.”

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The system has given affected workers until Dec. 1 to get vaccinated. KU Health System has more than 10,000 employees.

KU’s announcement comes two days after Saint Luke’s Health System announced it would require its employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Saint Luke’s announced its decision a little more than a month after Truman Medical Centers/University Health became the first local hospital system to mandate vaccinations for its employees.

Saint Luke’s said its decision followed what it called “a dramatic surge” in cases and hospitalizations across the Kansas City area, overwhelming hospital ICUs.

“Our job is to protect and care for the health of our patients. COVID-19 is spreading rapidly and is causing devastating loss,” Dr. Melinda L. Estes, president and CEO of Saint Luke’s, said in a news release. “As healthcare professionals, the most important action each of us can take to end this pandemic is to get vaccinated.”

As is the case with KU, the vaccine requirement applies to all Saint Luke’s employees, affiliated staff and contractors, students and volunteers. Anyone granted an exemption will have to undergo weekly COVID testing and monitoring.

Truman is requiring all members of its workforce to be vaccinated by Sept. 20. Leslie Carto, a spokeswoman for the hospital network, said that about 70% of the staff had been fully vaccinated a month ago.

FDA approval

The Food and Drug Administration on Aug. 23 granted full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for the prevention of the disease in individuals 16 years of age and older.

The vaccine remains available under emergency use authorization for individuals 12 through 15 years of age and as booster shots for immunocompromised individuals.

Moderna has completed its submission for full FDA approval of its COVID-19 vaccine.

Just over 57% of Kansas’ eligible population has received at least one vaccine dose. In Missouri, that figure is nearly 53%.

As of Sunday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 168.4 million Americans were fully vaccinated, or 49.6% of the overall U.S. population. Among those eligible for the vaccine — individuals 12 and older — 58.1% are fully vaccinated.

The overwhelming weight of medical evidence shows that the vaccines are highly effective at protecting against the risks of serious illness, hospitalization and death.

So far, vaccination rates in most parts of the United States are not high enough to confer herd immunity, meaning enough people in a community are protected from getting COVID-19 because they have been vaccinated or have already had the disease.

Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished by news media at no cost with proper attribution and a link to ksnewsservice.org.

See the latest COVID-19 stats for Lawrence and Douglas County on The Lawrence Times’ stat dashboard at this link.

Find out where you can get the free COVID-19 vaccine at this link.

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