Ascension to require COVID-19 vaccinations for employees

Exemptions possible based on medical conditions, religious beliefs & union contracts

Ascension St. Vincent’s Clay County (WJXT)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Joining a growing number of health systems, Ascension announced Tuesday that it will require COVID-19 vaccinations for its associates, whether they care for patients or not.

The parent of Ascension St. Vincent’s in Riverside and Clay County posted the new policy on its website, saying the change is based on its obligation to protect its patients, employees and the communities they serve.

“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,” the statement says. “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.”

The goal, Ascension says, is to have its associates fully vaccinated by Nov. 12, around the same time it requires annual flu shots.

On Monday, the Mayo Clinic, American Medical Association and dozens of other health care organizations called for health care providers to make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory among their employees, citing a surge in infections, hospitalizations and deaths linked to the highly transmissible delta variant, which has quickly become the dominant strain of COVID-19.

“Tens of thousands of Ascension associates have already been vaccinated with the available vaccines, as have millions of people across the country and the world. But we must do more to overcome this pandemic as we provider safe environments for those we serve,” Ascension’s statement says.

The health system said the new policy applies to all associates, no matter if they provide direct patient care or not, or whether they work at one of its facilities or remotely. The policy covers associates who are employed by its partners, physicians and advanced practice providers, and any volunteers and vendors who visit the health system’s facilities.

But Ascension noted there is a process in place for exemptions based on medical conditions, religious beliefs and collective bargaining agreements reached between the health system and unions who represent its associates.

“Together, we will put this pandemic behind us so that we can continue to focus on meeting the needs of those who come to us for care.”