Banner Health, a health system headquartered in Arizona, has announced that its more than 52,000 employees must be vaccinated against the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) by Nov. 1. Any worker who does not get vaccinated by that date will be fired.
Banner Health is Arizona’s largest health system. It operates 30 hospitals, including three academic medical centers, and dozens of other health facilities in Arizona and five other states: Wyoming, Nevada, Nebraska, Colorado and California. It has around 45,000 employees in Arizona and 7,000 in the five other states.
The health system is the first in Arizona to publicly announce mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for its employees. It told its employees about the vaccine mandate via email on Tuesday afternoon, July 20.
“We are taking this step to reduce risk for our patients, their families, visitors and each other. Safety is an absolute top priority and the COVID vaccine mandate reflects that commitment,” wrote the executives of the Arizona health system.
The health system said it will release more information about the vaccine mandate in the coming weeks, including a process by which employees can request an exemption. But the health system warned that its exemptions will be extremely limited.
The company already has an incentive program in place to entice its employees to get vaccinated. It is bribing workers with paid time off, reimbursement of travel costs and extra points toward the health system’s wellness program that offers discounts on health insurance.
Banner Health also has a lottery, with drawings taking place from July until August. Ten vaccinated employees will win $10,000 each.
Banner Health’s vaccine mandate is part of a national trend among healthcare systems implementing their own forced vaccination policies. Notable examples include the Houston Methodist Hospital system in Texas, which fired over 150 employees for refusing to get the vaccine. Three of Massachusetts’ largest hospital systems have also implemented vaccine mandates for their nearly 130,000 workers. (Related: Vaccine mandates in healthcare industry are growing, and they are expected to accelerate once FDA grants full approval.)
Banner Health using post-vaccine delta variant to justify vaccine mandate
Banner Health already mandates its employees receive the flu vaccine every year. Now, it says it needs to mandate the COVID-19 vaccines due to the rise of the post-vaccine delta variant.
“We care for some of the most vulnerable people in our communities and we owe it to them to take every measure possible to ensure the safest care environment,” said Banner Health President and CEO Peter Fine.
The delta variant makes up around 36 percent of all new COVID-19 cases in Arizona. Average new reported cases in the past two weeks have risen to 1,080 per day from 565 per day. This represents a 91 percent increase in the state’s ongoing post-vaccine outbreak.
In addition to fearmongering about the delta variant, Banner Health has justified the vaccine mandate due to the upcoming flu season.
Banner Health also believes it can mandate vaccines due to the expectation that the COVID-19 vaccines in use will soon receive full authorization from the Food and Drug Administration.
Banner Health employees speak out against mandate, threaten to resign if it pushes through
Some Banner Health employees have expressed their support for coercing their co-workers to get vaccinated. Many others have spoken out in support of health freedom and against the vaccine mandate.
“I just want to have a choice,” said nursing assistant Sujey Torres. She does not trust the vaccine, and wants to be given the option to refuse it for now. “I don’t want to be forced to get it.”
“I don’t have nothing against the vaccine, people that want to get it, good for them. My family has gotten it already, I just simply don’t want it,” she said.
Jim Sachs, who has been working for Banner Health for over three years now, said he is resigned to the fact that his refusal to get vaccinated may cost him his job.
Sachs works from home. He takes patients’ meal orders and relays them to the proper channels. “Based on the fact that I never see a patient or never see my team members, there’s no way I can be a danger.”
Sachs is a cancer survivor and is concerned about how the vaccine could affect his body. He is hoping to apply for an exemption to the mandate.
“While I love Banner, they saved my life in 2017, that’s a hill I will lose my job over.”
“I think they’re going to lose a lot of staff members,” warned Patricia Olivas, an X-ray technician who used to work at a Banner Health Urgent Care Center. Olivas believes it is wrong for the health system to force the vaccines onto its employees.
“They’re taking the choice away from someone and we make our own choices,” she said. “Why should we have an employer say you need this?”
Learn more about the vaccine mandates in the healthcare industry by reading the latest articles at Vaccines.news.