The health care system has seen an increase in hospitalizations in recent days.
Mercy will require co-workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, effective Sept. 30. The new requirement comes as the Delta variant continues to spread rapidly, resulting in an uptick in hospitalizations at Mercy hospitals in Fort Smith and Rogers.
The situation is even more serious in Missouri, where Mercy has hospitals and clinics in Joplin, Springfield, St. Louis and other locations, according to a press release. The majority of Mercy 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 percent of recent hospitalizations across the U.S. are people who aren’t vaccinated. The data is clear. Vaccination is key to saving lives.”
Mercy made the announcement Wednesday, the same day the Arkansas Department of Health reported 1,000 new cases of COVID-19. That’s the largest single day increase since February. More than 400 Arkansans are in the hospital because of the virus.
Both Pfizer and Moderna have applied to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for full approval of their COVID-19 vaccines, which is expected soon. COVID-19 vaccines have been deemed safe and have proven effective with more than 171 million Americans already vaccinated, Mercy officials said.
“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.”
Mercy will work with co-workers to develop a plan for compliance ahead of the scheduled deadline. Mercy continues to strongly encourage vaccination throughout the community as well. For questions about the vaccine or to schedule an appointment, visit mercy.net/covidvaccine.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson will lead a community discussion at the Veterans Park Community Center in Cabot tonight where the public can ask questions and share concerns regarding COVID-19 and the vaccine. Tonight’s event begins at 6 p.m. and is the first in a series of community COVID conversations.