Kaiser Permanente requiring all 240K employees, physicians to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19

Kaiser Permanente is the latest and largest domino to fall among the ever-growing number of healthcare organizations requiring COVID-19 vaccination across its employees and physicians.

By the end of July, Kaiser Permanente said that 77.8% of its 216,000-plus employees and over 95% of its 23,000-plus Permanente Medical Group physicians had already been fully vaccinated.

The remainder will have until Sept. 30 to either be fully vaccinated or receive an exemption for medical or religious reasons, the organization said in an announcement.

“As the country’s largest integrated care delivery system, we feel it is our responsibility to do everything we can to help bring an end to the pandemic, especially in light of the dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases from the highly infectious Delta variant,” Greg Adams, chair and CEO of Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and Health Plan, said in a statement

“Large groups of unvaccinated people are fueling the current increase in cases and 97% to 99% of COVID-19 hospital admissions are unvaccinated patients. Making vaccination mandatory is the most effective way we can protect our people, our patients and the communities we serve. We encourage all health systems and business and industry leaders across the country to play a role in ending the pandemic by doing the same,” Adams said.

Kaiser said it will also be providing its employees and clinicians with additional education on the authorized vaccines’ safety and efficacy. They’ll also receive paid administrative time when they attend an on-site vaccination clinic or other location, the system said.

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The California-based organization said that its requirement will fall in line with local, state and federal laws, and also noted that it will be working with its labor unions on the rollout itself.

Kaiser Permanente provides care for 12.5 million members across eight states and the District of Columbia. It owns 39 hospitals and 723 other care facilities and reported $88.7 billion in operating revenues in 2020.

The system said that it has cared for more than 900,000 COVID-19 patients over the course of the pandemic and administered over 6.8 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccines. So far, more than two-thirds of its members have received at least one dose.

“For 16 months, we have been doing everything we can to save lives, care for COVID-19 patients, and prevent our communities from contracting this deadly virus,” Ramin Davidoff, M.D., co-CEO of the Permanente Federation, said in a statement. “The COVID-19 vaccines offer us the path to move beyond the pandemic in the same way vaccination has brought an end to the epidemics of smallpox, polio, measles and other deadly diseases.

The organization joins dozens of other providers that have adopted a mandatory vaccination policy for all employees prior to the full clearance of a COVID-19 vaccine, the biggest among which include Ascension Health’s 160,000 associates and Trinity Health’s 117,000-strong workforce.  

This wave of support was heralded by policy statements from numerous professional and industry organizations, but has also drawn protests and (so far unsuccessful) litigation from unvaccinated employees who say the requirements infringe on personal freedoms.