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Health care employers opt to make COVID-19 vaccines for staff optional

Posted at 10:28 PM, Apr 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-28 23:28:07-04

Over a year into the coronavirus pandemic, health care workers are continuing to battle infections.

As vaccination efforts intensified, those on the front lines, like Dr.Tim Martindale, knew getting vaccinated was the best way to keep himself safe as he treats his patients.

"It's still out there. We have much less, but I've had patients with it last week. For me, with my thought of being close to death having had COVID a year ago, coming close to death, it was a slam dunk easy choice. I want the vaccine. I don't want to go through that again," he said.

Dr. Martindale has his own private practice, Martindale Family Medicine Clinic, where staff is required to be vaccinated for things like the flu.

But for now, coronavirus vaccinations will be up to his staff.

"The first thing is we wouldn't make it mandatory while it's still in experimental use, but there are some who feel like they are not as high a risk, and they're feeling very cautious, and they'd rather not take the risk of a vaccine, and I respect that," said Dr. Martindale.

Right now, half the staff is not vaccinated, but Dr. Martindale hopes as time goes on, they’ll feel more comfortable getting the vaccine.

"I'm glad he gives us the option to do it. Some of us have taken it, some of us have opted not to, but it's not contingent on our job position to have to take it," said Rhonda Cooper, a nurse at Martindale Family Medicine Clinic.

Dr. Martindale says staff and patients are required to wear masks and get screened before entering the building. Staff members also clean each room after every patient.

"I have a lot more peace of mind. I realize that there's always that possibility that I may contract COVID again, but the fact that I may not have as hard of a time with it as I had prior to the vaccine makes all the difference in the world," says Cooper.

The question of whether to require COVID-19 vaccinations for staff also plagues larger health care organizations.

Baylor Scott & White Hillcrest released the following statement.

"Critical to our ability to deliver safe, quality care to the millions of patients who depend on us is the health and safety of our people. We are strongly encouraging all employees to receive the vaccine. We are offering employees the opportunity to consult one-on-one with a COVID-19 Vaccine Employee Health Nurse Navigator in a HIPAA-compliant manner to answer any questions or concerns they may have about getting vaccinated. Our navigator team will connect employees to the resources available to make an informed, educated decision that is appropriate for them."

Baylor Scott & White officials say vaccinating staff is an ongoing process and the number of employees who have been vaccinated changes continuously.

They did not have an exact number but say that the majority of their team members have been vaccinated.