INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) ─ Two major Catholic health care systems with hospitals in the Indianapolis Archdiocese and throughout Indiana are among a growing number of Catholic health care providers across the nation requiring employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Both Ascension and Franciscan Alliance issued statements this summer about vaccine requirements that impact its hospital employees and the people they serve.
Ascension has set a timeline of Nov. 21 for its employees to be vaccinated. Franciscan Alliance's timeline for "all co-workers and medical staff members" to be vaccinated is Aug. 31.
In announcing its requirement, Ascension released a statement noting that its decision is "rooted in our mission commitment to leading with quality and safety. As a health care provider and as a Catholic ministry, ensuring we have a culture of safety for our associates, patients and communities is foundational to our work."
The vaccine requirement extends to all employees "whether or not they provide direct patient care, and whether they work in our sites of care or remotely," the statement noted.
It also said the policy includes "associates employed by subsidiaries and partners; physicians and advanced practice providers, whether employed or independent; and volunteers and vendors entering Ascension facilities."
Ascension said the timing of its Nov. 21 requirement aligns with its annual flu vaccination requirement.
"In those instances when someone may not be able to get vaccinated due to a medical condition or strongly held religious belief, Ascension will provide a process for requesting an exemption similar to the process we use for the annual influenza vaccine."
Ascension emphasized that its COVID-19 vaccine requirement is being made with one goal in mind: "Together, we will put this pandemic behind us so that we can continue to focus on meeting the needs of those who come to us for care."
That's also the goal of Franciscan Alliance.
Its vaccine requirement is in response to how the delta variant of COVID-19 has led to a dramatic surge in infections across the country, according to a statement from the health care provider.
"Franciscan Alliance's leadership believes it is in the best interest of our patients, visitors and staff to take the next step to promote and facilitate health and safety," the group's statement said.
It said that by Aug. 31, "all co-workers and medical staff members will be required to submit a copy of their state-issued proof of vaccination or a Franciscan laboratory test result for a test performed in August affirming that they have a sufficient level of immunity to the COVID-19 virus."
The leadership of Franciscan's health care system also said that in the near future "we anticipate the need for all co-workers, medical staff members, volunteers, students and contracted workers to be vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus."
The timing of that target date will be made once the Food and Drug Administration fully approves the COVID-19 vaccine, the statement noted.
"We are convinced this decision aligns with our mission and is supported by overwhelming medical evidence," it added.
The statement also thanked employees who have made "many personal sacrifices to provide safe, reliable and effective care during the pandemic."
"As we continue together on this most challenging journey," it said, "we have an obligation to those we are privileged to serve and protect them and ourselves from the spread of this debilitating and deadly disease."
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Shaughnessy is assistant editor of The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.