RAPID CITY, S.D. (KELO) — Monument Health says they will start requiring their employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine starting December 1.

In a news release on Thursday, the health system said their policy is similar to the health care system’s flu vaccine requirement. They say they 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,” Brad Archer, M.D., Chief Medical Officer for Monument Health said in the news release. “The only way to get there is through vaccination.”

Monument Health is the third South Dakota health system to require employees to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. Last week, Avera Health made the announcement that their employees will need to get the COVID-19 vaccine by December 1.

In July, Sanford Health announced that their employees will need to be vaccinated by November 1.

By requiring the COVID-19 vaccine, Monument Health will be joining more than 170 other health care systems across the country.

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. 

The announcement comes as cases of COVID-19 are up in the state, and the average age of patients in the hospitals are trending younger.

On Thursday, the South Dakota Department of Health announced more than 550 new cases of COVID-19 in the state. There are currently 7,526 active cases of the coronavirus in South Dakota.

The press release goes on to say that among Monument Health’s hospitalized COVID-19 patients, 82-percent are unvaccinated. Of those who are receiving ICU-level care, 91-percent are unvaccinated; while 88-percent of the patients on ventilators are unvaccinated.