Deaconess president: Employees required to be vaccinated for COVID-19 after full FDA approval

Published: Jul. 8, 2021 at 7:45 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 9, 2021 at 7:19 PM CDT
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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - All employees with the Deaconess Health System will be required to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 once the available vaccines are granted full approval by the Food and Drug Administration, according to Deaconess President Dr. James Porter.

Dr. Porter made the announcement Thursday during a live interview on 14 News at 6 p.m.

Three different COVID-19 vaccines have been given emergency use authorization by the agency. This allows a vaccine to become available before receiving full FDA approval during public health emergencies.

The three available vaccines come from Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.

According to a letter sent to employees, Deaconess says the health system believes in the science behind the vaccine, as well as the safety and efficacy behind it.

The letter also reads that Deaconess is anticipating the FDA to approve the vaccines by the end of August. If for some reason the vaccines are not approved, the deadline for employees to be vaccinated will be pushed back.

One question asked is why can’t employees continue to mask up if they’re not vaccinated?

This was also answered in the letter, reading it’s virtually impossible to determine who should wear a mask and enforce wearing a mask when the requirement is not universal.

The letter goes on to say masks are “very good” but not perfect for protecting against the virus, and not as effective at protecting people as the vaccine.

The letter also touches on exceptions that will be made. Deaconess tells employees that anyone with a real religious objection to a particular ingredient of a vaccine or a health concern, like Guillain-Barre syndrome or a history of anaphylaxis, can decline the vaccine.

14 News has reached out to local area hospitals, including Ascension St. Vincent and Owensboro Health Hospital, who say they have no plans at this point to make their employees get the vaccine. We are still waiting on a response from Memorial Hospital in Jasper.

The Vanderburgh County Health Department declined to comment specifically on Deaconess’s decision, but representatives did say they believe once the vaccine is fully FDA approved, more employers may possibly start requiring employees to be vaccinated.

With Deaconess being one of Evansville’s largest employers and how their decision could pave the way for others, the mayor’s office also didn’t want to respond about specific employer’s vaccine decisions, but provided the following statement: “We continue to respect businesses in our community and their choices related to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

You can watch Dr. Porter’s full interview in the video below:

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