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Ascension St. John to require vaccines for all employees

Posted at 7:07 AM, Jul 28, 2021

OKLAHOMA — Ascension St. John announced their hospitals will require all its employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

The announcement comes as COVID cases and hospitalizations continue to increase nationwide, especially in Green Country. Several health experts say the Delta variant is a big reason why.

READ MORE: Health expert suggests frequent testing for Delta variant

All employees will be asked to get vaccinated, whether they provide direct, face-to-face care to patients or they are working remotely. This requirement also includes volunteers and vendors who work in any Ascension facility.

Ascension official's timeline is to get all employees with their vaccinations complete on Nov. 12, 2021.

Read Ascension's statement about requiring vaccines:

"Like many health systems across the country, including in many of our markets, we are moving to require our associates to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Ascension conducted a thorough moral and ethical analysis as part of the decision-making process. This decision is rooted in our mission commitment to leading with quality and safety. As a healthcare provider and as a Catholic ministry, ensuring we have a culture of safety for our associates, patients and communities is foundational to our work."

A group of Oklahoma Republican lawmakers spoke out against vaccine requirements in a letter to Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell on Wednesday.

The letter asked Pinnell, acting in place of Gov. Kevin Stitt, to prohibit healthcare facilities from requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for their workers.

“I have been working to identify issues at our state's healthcare facilities," says Rep. Sean Roberts (R-Hominy).

"I have discovered that not only are more facilities moving towards mandating the COVID-19 vaccine, but they are denying legitimate medical and religious exemptions. I have received reports from verified healthcare employees that individuals with signed medical exemptions for the COVID-19 vaccine are being told their exemptions will not be honored. The collective takeaway from these messages is that the time to act is now and if we don’t, we may be facing a healthcare employee shortage crisis.”

Here is the full text of the letter:

Oklahoma House of Representatives

July 28, 2021

Acting Governor Pinnell,

As I am sure you are aware there are many healthcare facilities across the state that have decided to mandate the COVID-19 vaccines to their thousands of employees. These employees are the heroes that stood on the front line of the pandemic caring for those that had fallen ill to COVID-19.

Many Oklahomans are about to have their paychecks used against them to make a medical decision that goes against their beliefs. Healthcare workers are left to choose between taking a vaccine authorized for emergency use or risk losing their job, this goes against “liberty and justice for all.” If we do not protect the individual’s right to choose what goes in their body, we no longer live in a free society.

The Oklahoma legislature had bills introduced last session that were related to these type of vaccine mandates, but none of these bills came to be law. Some other states in the country have taken action on these issues while others already had laws on the books to protect their healthcare workers. For example in Oregon, employees such as health care providers, health care facility employees, clinical lab employees, law enforcement, and firefighters are protected by a 1989 state law that says “A worker shall not be required as a condition of work to be immunized” unless otherwise required by federal or state law.

After talking with healthcare workers and citizens across the state many of my colleagues and I have come to the conclusion this is an issue that requires the immediate attention of our State Government. The quickest and most effective way to protect these workers is an executive order prohibiting these mandates.

Those signed onto this letter and I respectfully request you draft an executive order to deal with this issue. If you deem this to be an issue the legislature needs to take care of, we respectfully request you call the legislature into special session to end medical tyranny and help us secure and protect our most basic human rights and civil liberties.

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