LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – As COVID-19 cases among the unvaccinated are on the increase, Baptist Health Lexington, Baptist Health Richmond, and Baptist Health Corbin, as well as other facilities, will now require all employees to be vaccinated by Oct. 31 for the protection of staff, their families, patients and the community.
The decision, made in partnership with other healthcare systems and with the backing of Baptist Health’s medical leadership, was announced by Baptist Health Healthcare System Aug. 2 to staff at all nine hospitals and the Baptist Health Medical Group.
The facilities join other hospitals and health systems in Kentucky and more than 80 across the nation that now require COVID-19 vaccinations for employees.
Staff members and providers who cannot get vaccinated for medical reasons (as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) or religious reasons may apply for an exemption by Aug. 30.
Those with an approved exemption will be subject to periodic testing for COVID-19.
“Baptist Health staff members and providers were among the first to receive these life-saving vaccines as role models for others in our communities,” said Gerard Colman, Baptist Health CEO. “We know the vaccines are one of the best ways to combat this virus.
“We must continue to lead by example by requiring that all Baptist Health employees are fully vaccinated. It is the ethical and responsible thing to do to live our mission of improving the healthcare of the communities that we serve.”
The delta variant has sparked an increase in COVID cases, primarily among the unvaccinated.
Baptist Health hospitals have seen confirmed COVID inpatient cases rise steadily in the last month — with 83% of those patients unvaccinated across all nine hospitals — in some cases reaching near-peak levels from the pandemic’s height.
Requiring vaccinations will also help with staffing, as OSHA now requires that unvaccinated healthcare workers must stay home from work if exposed to COVID-19, regardless of whether or not they have symptoms.
“We’re once again seeing a high volume of COVID-19 patients with numbers headed back to where we were at the worst of the pandemic,” said Dr. Yuri Vallaran, an intensivist at Baptist Health Lexington who was one of the first in line to receive the vaccine in December 2020.
“Our sickest patients are unvaccinated. We are heartbroken to have worked so hard to save lives before there was a vaccine. Now there is a vaccine and some people choose not to get it. We do not want to lose any of our staff because they are not vaccinated.”
Because the two-shot vaccines must be spaced 21 to 28 days apart depending on the vaccine – and it takes an additional 14 days after the second dose to be fully effective – employees must get their first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccine by Sept. 15.
Employees may also opt to take the single shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
The vaccination requirement also extends to all contractors, independent licensed healthcare providers, students, vendors and any other person performing onsite services at any Baptist Health facility. Employees with a start date of Sept. 13 or later will be required to have their first dose of the vaccine within one week of hire.
The COVID-19 vaccine is now widely available and those age 12 and older are eligible to receive them.