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Carris Health vaccine requirement deadline approaching, majority of employees have had their COVID-19 shots

The deadline is approaching for Carris Health employees to be vaccinated. Most have been vaccinated. Those who don't meet the Dec. 15 deadline will be placed on unpaid leave.

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Taken March 12, 2020. Erica Dischino / West Central Tribune
Erica Dischino

WILLMAR — Employees of Carris Health have two weeks to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or be placed on unpaid leave of absence.

Carris Health and its parent organization CentraCare announced their vaccine requirements for employees in August, giving their employees about four months to get their shots.

There is a process for requesting a medical or religious exemption.

Carris Health operates hospitals in Willmar and Redwood Falls and clinics and other facilities in Willmar, New London and Redwood Falls.

The vast majority of Carris Health employees are vaccinated, spokeswoman Teresa Behm said in an email this week.

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In August, Carris reported that 92% of physicians and 94% of advanced practice providers were vaccinated.

In a news release in August, Carris said, “As a health care organization, we have made a commitment to do everything in our power to save lives, protect patients and educate the community during this crisis. ... We believe that the decision to require vaccination best serves the collective good of our staff and community. The science shows us that no other strategy has proven to be more effective in fighting this virus."

Employees who are not fully vaccinated by Dec. 15 will be placed on unpaid leave but will be welcomed back in the next year if they are vaccinated, Behm said.

For those who haven’t yet been vaccinated, the single-shot Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine would do the trick. A person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after getting that vaccine. A booster is recommended two months later.

With the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, the employees would need to have started their vaccine series in early November. Both vaccines require two shots three or four weeks apart, and a person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after the second shot. Boosters are recommended six months after the second dose for both vaccines.

About 150 people held a rally in September objecting to vaccine requirements from Carris and other employers. People at the rally said they felt they should be able to choose whether to be vaccinated against COVID-19. They said they wanted to be able to choose an alternative to being vaccinated, possibly agreeing to regular testing and wearing masks.

In 42 years in the newspaper industry, Linda Vanderwerf has worked at several daily newspapers in Minnesota, including the Mesabi Daily News, now called the Mesabi Tribune in Virginia. Previously, she worked for the Las Cruces Sun-News in New Mexico and the Rapid City Journal in the Black Hills of South Dakota. She has been a reporter at the West Central Tribune for nearly 27 years.

Vanderwerf can be reached at email: lvanderwerf@wctrib.com or phone 320-214-4340
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