The Columbus Dispatch

Ohiohealth pauses vaccine mandate

Will still require workers to get COVID-19 vaccine

- Max Filby

One of the region’s largest health care providers will pause enforcemen­t of its COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

Ohiohealth will hold off on enforcing a mandate for all employees and associates that it announced in August, according to a prepared statement from the health system.

One reason for the pause is House Bill 218, which is under considerat­ion by the legislatur­e, according to Ohiohealth. If it becomes law, the bill would expand vaccine exemptions and prevent businesses from requiring proof of vaccinatio­n from customers or employees if an immunizati­on has yet to receive full approval from the Food and Drug Administra­tion.

Despite the pause, Ohiohealth maintains it will still require its workers to get vaccinated for COVID.

“We believe, like the majority of health systems nationwide, that requiring the vaccine is the right thing to do to protect our patients and staff from COVID-19 and are moving forward with our decision to require the COVID-19 vaccine or have an approved medical or religious exemption,” a statement from the health system reads.

As of Wednesday, nearly 83% of Ohiohealth’s 35,000 associates, providers and volunteers had been vaccinated for COVID-19 or successful­ly applied for an exemption, spokesman Colin Yoder said.

Ohiohealth isn’t the first hospital system in the state to announce it would pause the enforcemen­t of its vaccine mandate.

The Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals and Aultman Hospitals in northeast Ohio all paused their requiremen­ts for employees to be vaccinated Dec. 3. The pause came after a federal judge last week temporaril­y

blocked President Joe Biden’s mandate for health care workers from going into effect in Ohio.

Every major Columbus health system announced last summer that it would require the COVID-19 vaccine for all workers. In October, The Dispatch found that most Columbus-area hospital workers already have been vaccinated for COVID-19.

Nationwide Children’s Hospital set an Oct. 1 deadline, and by Oct. 11 more than 90% of workers there had gotten the jab. The Dispatch has reached out to Nationwide Children’s for an update on the status of vaccinatio­ns of workers, associates and volunteers but has not heard back.

Around 99% of Mount Carmel workers have been vaccinated or applied for an exemption, spokeswoma­n Samantha Irons said via email Wednesday. Citing vaccines as the “best defense” against COVID, Irons said the health system has no plans to pause its vaccine mandate. Mount Carmel’s deadline was Nov. 30.

Ohio State Wexner Medical Center set an Oct. 15 deadline for its workers to get vaccinated. As of Wednesday, 93% of the medical center’s 23,000 employees have gotten the shot, 5% are exempt and 2% have yet to apply for an exemption or show proof of vaccinatio­n, spokeswoma­n Marti Leitch said via email.

Still, the regulatory landscape for COVID vaccine mandates has become more “complex” given different court rulings and legislatio­n, Dr. Andrew Thomas, chief clinical officer at the Wexner Medical Center, said during a news briefing Wednesday.

“I do think that regulatory uncertaint­y is leading some hospitals to just pause,” Thomas said. “We’re moving forward and just having individual discussion­s with people.” mfi @Maxfilby

 ?? COLUMBUS DISPATCH ADAM CAIRNS/ ?? Ohiohealth will not enforce its COVID-19 vaccine mandate for now because of a bill being considered by the state legislatur­e.
COLUMBUS DISPATCH ADAM CAIRNS/ Ohiohealth will not enforce its COVID-19 vaccine mandate for now because of a bill being considered by the state legislatur­e.

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