PHOENIX — Banner Health announced Tuesday that COVID-19 vaccinations will be required for all employees with a deadline of November 1.
By the November deadline, all employees should be fully vaccinated against the virus for their protection, along with colleagues and patients with "rare exception," according to an email sent out to staff.
“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 Peter Fine, president and CEO for Banner Health, in a company-wide email on 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."
Banner Health said several reasons come into play with the latest decision that includes the rise of the fast-spreading Delta variant and pending the lift of the Food and Drug Administration's Emergency Use Authorization.
Public health experts say they are seeing signs of a third COVID-19 wave in Arizona as we are starting to see an exponential growth curve.
The Delta variant, a more contagious variant, is likely to blame as the state saw a big increase in daily reported cases last week.
"I think it's especially important for healthcare providers to be vaccinated, given the fact that they are taking care of some of our high-risk and vulnerable patients," says Director for the Arizona Department of Health Services, Dr. Cara Christ.
Dr. Christ says vaccines are the strongest prevention and mitigation tool we have against COVID-19.
"We know that 99% of the deaths since January have been in unvaccinated individuals and in the month of July, 90% of the cases have been in unvaccinated individuals. This is slowly, or quickly actually, transitioning into a pandemic of the unvaccinated," says Dr. Christ.
Earlier this month, Banner launched an incentive program for employees who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.