JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Baptist Health announced Tuesday it will require its team members and professional staff to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Nov. 15.
The announcement comes as COVID-19 hospitalizations spike in Northeast Florida.
The health system said it will grant some exceptions to the COVID-19 vaccination requirement for employees.
“In keeping with the organization’s flu shot policy, Baptist Health will grant exemptions for medical contraindications and sincerely held religious beliefs,” Baptist Health said in a news release.
According to Baptist Health, new variants have contributed to a 300% increase in hospitalizations.
“While we respect personal choice, the aggressive rates of infection resulting from the Delta variant have made it necessary to take this step,” said Michael Mayo, president and CEO of Baptist Health.
“We have been considerate of those with deep concerns about receiving the vaccination,” Mayo continued. “But the time has come to provide a deadline. Consistent with our mission and core values, it is our ethical responsibility to do all we can to protect the health of our patients, team members and the communities we serve.”
On July 26, 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. The next day, Ascension announced that it will require COVID-19 vaccinations for its associates, whether they care for patients or not.
Baptist Health said that among its patients, more than 90% of those hospitalized in recent weeks have been unvaccinated.
“In our defense against new variants invading our region, vaccination is the most powerful tool we have,” said Dr. Timothy Groover, interim Chief Medical Officer at Baptist Health. “The evidence strongly confirms that COVID-19 vaccination reduces hospitalizations, severity of illness and deaths. In order for us to care for the community, we must remain healthy ourselves.”
Baptist Health has more than 12,500 employees.