FORT SMITH, Ark. — Mercy will require all of its workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine by the end of September.
The requirement comes as the Delta variant of the virus spreads across Arkansas and Missouri.
Mercy says a majority of its patients recently hospitalized with COVID-19 have not been vaccinated.
“What we are seeing aligns with the Associated Press analysis of CDC data,” said Dr. John Mohart, Mercy’s senior vice president of clinical services. “More than 95% of recent hospitalizations across the U.S. are people who aren’t vaccinated. The data is clear. Vaccination is key to saving lives.”
The FDA is expected to grant full approval of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines soon, which Mercy says is why they have established the fall deadline.
"In requiring the vaccine for our co-workers, physicians, advance providers, nurses and all others who serve and work in our facilities, we'll join the many other health care organizations," a note from Mercy leadership sent out to employees stated.
Mercy is one of the nation's largest health care systems, with more than 4,000 Mercy Clinic physicians and advanced practitioners and 40,000-plus co-workers serving patients and across Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma.
“It is essential that we take these steps in order to protect the health of our co-workers and our patients at Mercy,” said Dr. William Sistrunk, Mercy infectious disease specialist. “As health care leaders in our communities, it is important we set the standard to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Vaccination is our best defense against the virus and already has provided many of our co-workers with the protection they need to care for our patients. Our goal is to ensure the safest possible work environment for our co-workers and patients while also being a part of the effort to stop the spread of the virus in the communities we serve.”
Mercy says it will work with co-workers to develop a plan for compliance ahead of the September deadline.
On Tuesday, the Arkansas Department of Health reported 55 new COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state, a spike not seen since the beginning of the year.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.