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Ascension to require employees receive COVID-19 vaccine

While the organization's base is in St. Louis, it has no hospitals in the area and only one local senior living site
Credit: AP
FILE - In this July 12, 2021, file photo, Karen Martin receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic hosted by James River Church West Campus in conjunction with Jordan Valley Community Health Center in Springfield, Mo. (Nathan Papes/The Springfield News-Leader via AP, File)

ST. LOUIS — St. Louis-based health system Ascension said it will require all of its employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by this fall.

The nation's largest nonprofit and Catholic health system, Ascension has over 160,000 total employees and 40,000 affiliated clinicians. It operates at more than 2,600 sites, including 146 hospitals and over 40 senior living facilities. While the organization's base is in St. Louis, it has no hospitals in the area and only one local senior living site.

"As the COVID-19 pandemic continues and new variants of the virus emerge, Ascension continues to focus on ensuring our associates are protected — for the safety of patients and visitors, our associates, our families and loved ones, and the community," officials said Tuesday in a release.

The organization said it is joining many other health systems across the country in requiring employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and that "tens of thousands" of its associates already have been vaccinated. Ascension has operations in 19 states and the District of Columbia.

Ascension said it will require vaccination whether or not employees provide direct patient care and whether they work remotely or at its care sites. The requirement includes associates employed by Ascension subsidiaries and partners; physicians and advanced practice providers who are employed or independent; and volunteers and vendors entering the health care system's facilities.

The organization said employees must complete the vaccine series by Nov. 12, a deadline that aligns with Ascension’s annual influenza vaccination requirement, officials said. Ascension said it will provide a process for requesting an exemption for associates who may not be able to get vaccinated due to a medical condition or "strongly held" religious belief, similar to the process used for influenza vaccination. The COVID-19 vaccination requirement will be implemented in accordance with collective bargaining agreements between Ascension businesses and unions representing its employees, officials said. 

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