Where employee vaccination rates stand at Helen Keller Hospital after federal mandate halt

Published: Dec. 15, 2021 at 10:06 PM CST
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SHEFFIELD, Ala. (WAFF) - While a judge halted a Biden administration mandate for healthcare workers to get vaccinated, employees at Helen Keller hospital continued to step up to get the vaccine or an exemption.

Just two days before the federal mandate was set to go in place, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a memorandum saying that it will not enforce its COVID-19 vaccine mandate while there are court-ordered injunctions in place.

“At that time, we had a deadline of December 5th to have every one of our staff members, physicians, contractors, and others either vaccinated or qualify and fill out the form for exemption,” said Helen Keller President, Kyle Buchanan.

While there is no longer a deadline, Buchanan said that many employees stepped up to get vaccinated or exempt.

He said they are above the state vaccine average of 46 percent.

“We’re well beyond that. We’re in the excess of 70 percent, approaching 75 percent of our staff that has been vaccinated. We have several individuals that qualify for an exemption and have returned those forms. Only three percent of our staff don’t fit into any category who haven’t turned in a form or haven’t been vaccinated,” said Buchanan.

Recently, thousands of nurses have left the industry or lost their jobs rather than get vaccinated. As of September, 30% of workers at more than 2,000 hospitals across the country surveyed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were unvaccinated.

Buchanan said that isn’t the case at Helen Keller.

“Our team has been very very gracious to again step up to become vaccinated or to be very transparent with us about the exemption they qualify for. So we embrace that process. We understand that vaccination and protection both from contradicting COVID as well as transmitting it to our patients is the utmost importance and we’re doing everything we can to keep our patients and community safe,” said Buchanan.

In the meantime, he said they are still encouraging vaccinations or to file for an exemption, if eligible.

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