The decision behind Sanford Health’s employee vaccine requirement


SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – South Dakota’s largest employer is requiring every employee to get vaccinated for COVID-19.

Sanford Health announced that everyone who works at Sanford or Good Samaritan Society must report that they have received the COVID-19 vaccine by November first. Any employee who has already received the vaccine within the past twelve months will qualify.

Prairie Creek Assisted Living facility in Sioux Falls has a one hundred percent COVID-19 vaccination rate among employees.

“This was really, in my mind, the vaccine was one way that we could allow our families to maybe come back and do some normal activities with loved ones that live with us,” Alecia O’Neill, senior living administrator for GSS said.

And soon, every employee within the Sanford Health network will also be vaccinated, including those at the Good Samaritan Societies.

“This is a decision we’ve been working on for awhile. One of the things that we’ve been watching very carefully is the emergence of the Delta variant and being concerned about how we can keep both our people, our patients and our residents safe,” Dr. Jeremy Cauwels, chief physician at Sanford Health said. “Particularly looking at how we’re going to work with our communities and making sure that we can do everything that we can to keep people out of the hospital. And as we’ve been watching that, one of the things is become clear is that the vaccine is absolutely the safest way to do that.”

As of right now, more than 90-percent of Sanford’s clinicians and 70 percent of nurses are vaccinated.

“What that kind of number means for us is that the people that we rely on to make our best medical decisions are overwhelmingly in support of this decision already,” Cauwels said.

Sanford Health already required employees to get other vaccinations, including the flu shot. However, they do allow certain exemptions for medical or religious reasons.

Lauren Soulek: And obviously you trust the vaccine if you’re willing to then make sure all of your employees have it too.

Cauwels: Absolutely. I would give it to my employees, I gave it to my family. I think it is the best way out of this pandemic.

KELOLAND News reached out to Avera and Monumental Health about vaccine policies.

Avera Medical Group says “at this time, Avera is evaluating the topic of requiring vaccines for employees. We are grateful for those who have received their vaccinations — and continue to encourage others who are eligible to get vaccinated.”

Monument Health says, at this time, they have not made a decision yet, but when they do it will come from their lead physician. They say they will also consult with their partners in the Mayo Clinic Care Network.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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