WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — Nearly 33,000 employees at UnityPoint Health — which includes workers in Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin — will face a requirement that a growing number of health care workers across the country must meet if they want to remain on the job: Most must get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Thursday’s announcement comes at a time when confirmed cases of patients with the virus statewide increased by 28% from last week, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health. The department also announced an additional 23 deaths of people with the virus compared to the previous week as the state deals with the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant of the virus.
Hospital officials notified employees Thursday afternoon that they would need to get vaccinated against the virus by November 1st.
Clay Holderman, President and CEO of UnityPoint Health said in a statement, “After thoughtful consideration, we believe this vaccination requirement will keep our team members, patients and communities as healthy as possible, so we can focus on what we do best–delivering exceptional care to those we serve.”
The announcement states, “Team members who choose not to become vaccinated will be subject to voluntary resignation or termination.”
UnityPoint Health noted exceptions for workers who “can request an exemption for medical or religious reasons, which is consistent with the health system’s practice for other required vaccines.”
The exemption will also include workers who are pregnant. “While pregnant team members will be strongly encouraged to get vaccinated, a temporary deferral will be available,” the company announcement said.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, a Democrat, mandated COVID-19 for most public and private health care workers, unless employees agree to regular virus testing. Oregon Governor Kate Brown, a Democrat, a issued a similar mandate.
Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, a Republican, has not issued a vaccine mandate for health care workers but has encouraged residents to voluntarily get vaccinated.
Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican, told WHO 13 that he supports the rights of private businesses to require mandates. “Without a doubt, they have a right to mandate. It would be wrong for me to question what they think is best for their business or their employees,” Grassley said.
He added that he is not calling for mandatory vaccinations for federal workers. “I would not vote to make federal employees have vaccinations,” Grassley said.
Nearly two in three Iowans who are 18 years of age and older have received a COVID-19 vaccination.