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WellSpan Health to require COVID-19 vaccine for staff members | Local News

WellSpan Health, which operates in Pennsylvania eight hospitals — including WellSpan Ephrata Community Hospital — and employs about 20,000 people, is implementing the federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate for its workers.

WellSpan Health is requiring workers to receive their first COVID-19 dose — if taking a two-dose regime — by Dec. 1 and their second dose by Jan. 5, 2022. Exemptions will be granted for religious and medical reasons.

Employees who fail to meet the vaccine requirement or obtain an exemption will lose their jobs.

“WellSpan continues to believe that vaccination is the single best way to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” Ryan Coyle, a WellSpan spokesman, said in an email.

Coyle pointed to the fact that the majority of WellSpan patients admitted with COVID-19 requiring breathing support (99%) or ICU care (90%) are unvaccinated.

President Joe Biden announced an employee vaccine mandate for health care workers last month. Initially, two of the three major health systems in the county – WellSpan and UPMC – had said they would wait on further guidance before implementing the mandate.

Only Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health has a staff vaccine mandate in place, which went into effect Sept. 1.

Amber Depew, a UPMC Lititz spokesperson, said Friday the health system has no plans yet to implement a staff vaccine mandate.

“UPMC follows all current governmental requirements and will continue its vaccine advocacy and outreach efforts, make vaccines easily and readily available for all,” Depew told LNP | LancasterOnline by text message. “We continue to monitor any governmental guidance and testing requirements where our employees live and work.”

The largest nongovernmental employer in Pennsylvania, UPMC has more than 90,000 employees at 40 hospitals, including UPMC Lititz.

UPMC has said its staff vaccination rate, across the system, is about 70%.

Depew declined to provide an updated rate.

Before implementing its mandate in May, roughly 66% of LG Health employees were vaccinated. Last month, the rate was more than 98%.

WellSpan Health again declined to provide its staff vaccination rate.

Nationally, health care workers account for roughly 18% of reported COVID-19 cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Pennsylvania, 2% of the total reported infections are among health care workers.