Questions are being raised about the reason behind a second hospital system announcing that its staff in Arizona must receive one of the COVID-19 vaccinations by Nov. 1 or risk being fired.
CEO Todd LaPorte of HonorHealth informed the company’s nearly 13,000 employees of the new requirement on Friday. The company operates six hospitals across Maricopa County as well as other medical facilities.
“This requirement is consistent with HonorHealth’s imperative to provide the utmost safety for our patients, team members and the community, and is consistent with our mission to improve the health and well-being of those we serve,” LaPorte said.
The announcement came just days after a similar decree from Banner Health CEO Peter Fine, who justified the new policy with uncited “overwhelming evidence” and “vaccine data” he claims proves there is safety and efficacy with three COVID-19 vaccines.
However, it remains unclear is why Banner and HonorHealth selected a deadline of Nov. 1 -more than three months from now- despite the fact both CEOs claimed the need for mandated vaccinations was to protect the health of patients and staff.
A longtime Banner nurse told Arizona Daily Independent that no one is sure of the significance of the November deadline, although there is a possibility it relates to state or federal funds which might come into play.
But no matter why the companies are pushing a vaccinate-or-termination mantra, the nurse says healthcare workers in all positions are “definitely awaken” to the situation and are pushing back. And that could have a crippling effect on Arizona’s beleaguered healthcare industry which was already experiencing a shortage of medical professionals long before COVID-19.
Most people in the medical field are healthier than average, are young, and educated not only about the risks of COVID-19 but also the risks of vaccines which have not been adequately studied for long-term effects. That is one reason, the nurse said, only about 40 percent of all Banner staff have voluntarily been vaccinated.
“I think one of the biggest things is that there is no open and honest discussion -by Banner or others- of the side effects. Instead, those in charge are sweeping the discussions and concerns under the rug,” she said. “I know the risk I’m taking. A nurse’s job every day is to advocate for our patients, so why wouldn’t we advocate for ourselves?”
Banner and HonorHealth indicated employees would be able to seek some type of exemption, but it does not appear that antibody testing can be done in lieu of a vaccination.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a positive antibody test is presumed to mean a person has been infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, at some point in the past. Confirmed and suspected cases of reinfection with the virus have been reported, but remain rare.
It is not only the Nov. 1 vaccination deadline that Banner employees need to be concerned with. The nurse shared with Arizona Daily Independent documents which show Banner has initiated a “Safe and Verified” program to segregate staff by their proven vaccination status.
Employees who provide a vaccination record to Banner will be issued a special I.D. badge cover. If an employee does not display the special I.D. cover, then “it will be assumed they are unvaccinated and will be held to unvaccinated guidelines” such as wearing a mask in all areas and being barred from dining on-site with employees who have the special I.D. cover.
“Banner is pushing fear of a spike [in infections] to justify segregation of employees,” the nurse said, adding there is no data showing healthcare workers have a higher infection rate compared to other industries with frequent contact with the public.
Studies do show the majority of those declining to be vaccinated for COVID-19 are under the age of 40. Many have expressed concern about the lack of solid data about long-term impacts on fertility and overall health.
“We take the proper precautions to protect ourselves. So you’re literally telling me to inject this into myself for what reason? I don’t think you as a patient have the right to demand that,” she said.