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OHSU Will Require Staff Vaccinations By Sept. 1

The institution will give employees the opportunity to opt out, provided they go through an education session and abide by certain rules.
OHSU receiving a shipment of Pfizer BioNTEch COVID-19 vaccine. | OHSU/FRITZ LIEDTKE
August 3, 2021

Oregon Health & Science University will require staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Sept. 1

In a statement released to The Lund Report, a spokeswoman said the mandate will apply to all employees, students, long-term vendors and volunteers. Those who do not want a COVID-19 shot will have to formally decline and go through an education session and follow extra safety protocols.

The policy is similar to the one OHSU has for the flu vaccine, it said. 

“Many vaccinations - such as those against mumps, measles and rubella — are required by federal or state laws, while other vaccinations —  such as those against the flu —  are not yet required by state or federal authorities,” the statement said. “OHSU is taking a similar approach to COVID-19 vaccination as it has for influenza vaccinations: Employees, students and others associated with OHSU will be required to either get vaccinated against COVID-19 or to formally decline a COVID-19 vaccination.”

The institution, which employs more than 20,000 people and has more than 6,000 students and trainees, is still working through the requirements. It said that those who decline might be required to go through regular COVID-19 testing and wear masks at work, something that is already required.

It said the requirements could change, depending on feedback from employees, students and others.

The statement comes hours after PeaceHealth announced that it will require employees to be vaccinated by Aug. 31 and follows a decision by Kaiser Permanente to mandate vaccines for its employees by Sept. 30.

(See related stories: PeaceHealth Will Require Staff To Be Vaccinated Against COVID-19 and Kaiser Permanente Will Defy Law And Require COVID-19 Vaccinations.)

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will also require its health care staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Professional associations, including the American Medical Association, American Nurses Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, Association of American Medical Colleges, National Association for Home Care and Hospice and the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Care Systems have also called for mandatory vaccination of health care workers. But in Oregon, a 1989 law bans health care companies from making vaccinations a condition of employment. 

In its statement, OHSU acknowledged Oregon’s ban: “Our policy will provide OHSU employees the opportunity to decline and complete other materials to be compliant, although we continue to urge everyone to become vaccinated.”

Its website shows that more than 23,000 employees and students at OHSU have gotten at least one shot.

The vaccines are proving to be effective at preventing most hospitalizations and death from COVID-19: Almost everyone hospitalized is unvaccinated, health officials say. Oregon still has a sizeable number of people who’ve not gotten a shot, especially in rural counties. The latest Oregon Health Authority figures show that nearly 70% of adults in Oregon are vaccinated.

It’s not clear what other health care companies will do, if anything. Providence Health & Services, the largest provider in the state with 23,000 employees, is not tracking staff immunizations, a spokesman said. 

On Monday, top managers at St. Charles Health System in central Oregon told The Lund Report that they’re not even discussing mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for staff because of the 1989 law.

“We can’t under Oregon law,” said Dr. Doug Merrill, chief medical officer for the St. Charles Health Systen’s hospitals in Bend and Redmond told The Lund Report. “It’s not even on the table.”

But Gov. Kate Brown is likely to step in. Her spokesman and others indicated to The Lund Report that a provision that would allow companies to bend or skirt the law is in the works.

You can reach Lynne Terry at [email protected] or on Twitter @LynnePDX.