RAPID CITY, S.D. (Sept. 16, 2021) – At Monument Health, our vision is to do the right thing. Every time. With soaring COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations in western South Dakota, and with the Pfizer vaccine receiving full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Monument Health announced today that they will require Physicians and Caregivers to be vaccinated against COVID-19. It’s the right thing to do for our patients, families, communities and colleagues.
Beginning Dec. 1, 2021, Monument Health joins more than 170 other health care systems across the country, including Sanford Health and Avera Health, in requiring that our Physicians and Caregivers be vaccinated against COVID-19.
The policy is similar to the health care system’s flu vaccine requirement. Monument Health will consider exemption requests for caregivers with medical contraindications and sincerely held religious beliefs.
“We are grateful for all of the hard work and heroism our Physicians and Caregivers have shown throughout this pandemic. We look forward to the day when COVID-19 is no longer a threat to our care teams, our patients, and our communities,” said Brad Archer, M.D., Chief Medical Officer for Monument Health. “The only way to get there is through vaccination.”
With more than 380 million doses administered nationwide, the vaccines have proven to be safe and effective in preventing serious illness and death from COVID-19. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has given full approval of the Pfizer vaccine. The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are expected to gain approval soon.
The highly transmissible Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus has been spreading rapidly through communities across western South Dakota. The number of new weekly West River COVID-19 cases nearly tripled in three weeks, and Monument Health is treating a record number of hospitalized patients.
“Every day we see the damage that this virus does to patients,” Archer added. “As health care professionals, we owe it to our communities to do whatever we can to contain and control COVID-19. And extensive studies show that the vaccines are safe and effective.”
Among Monument Health’s hospitalized COVID-19 patients approximately 82 percent are unvaccinated. Among those receiving ICU-level care, 91 percent are unvaccinated. Among patients on ventilators, 88 percent are unvaccinated. This shows that even in breakthrough cases where patients have been fully vaccinated and later acquire COVID-19, the vaccine is effective in lessening the symptoms and severity of the virus.
Key elements of the vaccination requirement program:
• The program applies to all Monument Health Physicians and Caregivers regardless of whether they work in clinical or nonclinical jobs.
• Dec. 1 is also the requirement for Physicians and Caregivers to receive the influenza vaccine. Both vaccines can be safely administered at the same time.
• Those who want to file an exemption request must complete the declination process by Nov. 1.
• Those who are exempt from the vaccination program must wear face coverings and maintain social distance whenever possible, even if COVID-19 masking restrictions are eased in the future.
• All Physicians and Caregivers must provide proof of vaccination.