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Fresno Hospital Staffers Must Get COVID Vaccination or Risk Losing Job

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The hospital's parent company, Trinity Health, previously recommended but did not require employee vaccinations. (SAMC website)
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Employees who want to keep their jobs at Saint Agnes Medical Center in northeast Fresno will have to claim an exemption or show proof of vaccination against the coronavirus by Sept. 21 because of a mandate announced this month by the parent corporation, Trinity Health.

The Michigan-based Catholic health system is requiring vaccinations for its 117,000 employees across 22 states. Trinity Health had previously recommended but not required vaccination to protect against COVID-19.

The corporation wants to improve on its 75% vaccination rate with the new mandate, which also applies to clinical staff, contractors, and others conducting business in its health care centers.

Employees and others may claim religious or health reasons when seeking a vaccination exemption, but they must be formally requested, documented, and approved.

Those who do not show proof of vaccination or meet a criteria for exemption will face the loss of their job.

Goal is Safety for All

Saint Agnes’ more than 2,900 employees were notified by email and a town hall meeting of the requirement, and there were a few isolated questions about why such a mandate is needed, said Dr. Walter Eugene Egerton, chief medical officer. “But by and large, I believe our colleagues understand to the greatest extent why we feel that it’s necessary to do this in order to keep them safe, our patients are safe and the community safe.”

Egerton could not say the percentage of employees who have gotten at least one shot but suspects it’s higher than Trinity Health’s 75% average.

The vaccines provide protection even in “breakthrough” cases in which vaccinated people catch the coronavirus, because those patients are much less ill and are not dying, as was the case before vaccinations become available, he said.

And with the number of COVID-19 cases climbing again in Fresno County — Egerton said the Fresno County Public Health Department just reported that the number of cases doubled in just a week after the July 4 weekend — vaccination is more important than ever, particularly because the delta variant of the coronavirus is even more contagious than earlier variants.

“That’s just a testament to the fact that we’re not totally through with COVID yet,” he said. “And so it is incumbent upon us to do everything that we can to prevent the community from experiencing what we experienced the previous 18 months.”

When enough people are vaccinated there will be herd immunity, which will provide protection for those who can’t be vaccinated, including the very young or people who are immunocompromised, he said.

Nancy Price is a multimedia journalist for GV Wire. A longtime reporter and editor who has worked for newspapers in California, Florida, Alaska, Illinois and Kansas, Nancy joined GV Wire in July 2019. She previously worked as an assistant metro editor for 13 years at The Fresno Bee. Nancy earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Her hobbies include singing with the Fresno Master Chorale and volunteering with Fresno Filmworks. You can reach Nancy at 559-492-4087 or Send an Email