Vaccination rates at SSM Health rise as health care system requires COVID-19 shot

The Wisconsin Medical Society is calling on all health care organizations to mandate the vaccine, citing the Delta variant and rising case numbers.
Published: Aug. 2, 2021 at 11:20 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Monday, the Wisconsin Medical Society urged health care organizations across the state to require employees be vaccinated against COVID-19. In a statement, the organization cited the more contagious Delta variant and rising case numbers in the state.

“Mandates similar to what we already have in place for measles or influenza are needed. It’s time for all health care employers to lead by example, do the right thing and take this necessary next step,” said Wisconsin Medical Society COVID-19 Task Force Chair David Letzer in the statement.

Some health care systems are already doing so, like the Mayo Clinic Health System and Medical College of Wisconsin. That list includes SSM Health, which announced back in June all employees must get vaccinated by September as a condition of employment.

There are narrow exceptions: employees with a medical or religious exemption do not have to get the shot, but SSM said Tuesday nearly 80 percent of their staff is already fully vaccinated.

“It’s important to be those leaders in health care and in our community,” said SSM Health regional manager for employee health Jenny Bothun.

Leading by example is just one reason SSM Health made the decision early in the summer to require the COVID vaccine for all employees. The vaccine is also “another layer of protection” for both health care staff and patients.

“We’ve heard from countless patients that they just feel safer knowing that we’re kind of putting it out there, we’re making it mandatory,” Bothun explained.

Across SSM Health, Bothun said 79 percent of employees have completed their vaccine series. In specific facilities, she said that number is even higher, climbing above 90 percent in some areas.

Bothun explained SSM is trying to make the shot convenient for its staff, trying to remove transportation barriers by setting up pop-up clinics in employee break rooms.

“You can come on down, get vaccinated and wait your 15 minutes and go right back up to work,” she said.

The more contagious Delta variant and rising COVID cases are a concern. However, Bothun said she suspects SSM’s internal numbers do not yet reflect all vaccinated employees.

“They’ve gone out to a pharmacy, they’ve gone off, kind of outside of the arms of SSM to be vaccinated and just haven’t given us that information to count in the numbers,” she explained.

Bothun added, SSM Health expects those numbers to rise in the next few weeks as the state approaches fall and the new school year.

“I think people are going to kind of look at this and say ‘Yep it’s just one more thing I need to do,’” Bothun said.

NBC15 also reached out to UW Health, which has not yet required vaccinations. In a statement, UW Health said, “We strongly encourage all of our providers and staff to receive a COVID-19 vaccine,” but the organization is not requiring it. About 90 percent of their staff has already gotten the vaccine.

Copyright 2021 WMTV. All rights reserved.