Fairbanks Memorial Hospital mandates COVID-19 vaccines for all employees

Published: Sep. 3, 2021 at 3:48 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The Fairbanks Memorial Hospital (FMH) will now be mandating that all employees be vaccinated against COVID-19, with some exceptions.

According to Jeff Cook, Chairman of the Board for Foundation Health Partners, “We’ve been considering it for quite some time and watching the trends - and certainly this new increase in cases has spurred us on to look at this a little more in depth. At our August 8th meeting of the board, we did vote to require all of our new hires to be vaccinated as of August 16th, and at that meeting we said that on or before October 1st we will revisit it for an employee mandate, and it would be sooner if the FDA removes the emergency [authorization] and gives full approval to the vaccine.”

The new policy, according to Cook, will fall under similar procedure to FMH’s pre-established policy for other vaccinations like the flu shot, including a way for employees to file for exemption. “We currently have a flu vaccination policy and this really piggybacks off that. The exemptions are for religious reasons or health reasons, and for the flu we haven’t monitored those really well, but we now have a form where the employees who want to opt out on that basis have to fill it out. We’re certainly going to be empathetic, but we’re also going to make sure that they’re well reasoned and deserving to be exempted.”

The decision to wait on a vaccine mandate was made for the benefit of those employees with reservations about the vaccines. Cook continued, “Obviously some people thought that we should have done that shortly after the vaccine came out. But you know, I think being fair to people who had concerns and wanting to have the rigorous review, we thought it was important to maintain a good relationship with our employees to wait until that emergency [authorization] was lifted and it became fully approved.”

And while there may be those who choose to leave FMH over this mandate, Cook said the decision has taken that risk into account. “Like other organizations, whether they’re healthcare or Alaska Airlines [which] has recently come up with a new policy, there is concern. You hear that people are going to quit and we certainly hope they don’t. We hope they understand that we’re doing this for the best interest in our community, and it fits in with our mission and our core values. We’re concerned with that; but likewise with this great increase in the number of cases, we’re equally concerned that those employees might get sick and not be able to come to work.”

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