All new NCH hires required to get COVID-19 vaccine

NCH Healthcare System announced Wednesday all new hires will be required to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 within four weeks of their hire date when the new policy becomes effective Aug. 16. The health system says this policy is similar to its current flu vaccination policy, which allows for exemptions.

According to the NCH new vaccination policy, “All current employees, contract staff and volunteers are encouraged to receive the COVID-19 vaccination within thirty 30 days of the effective date of the policy, unless otherwise exempted from the policy by an approved accommodation pursuant to the interactive process.”

Similar to the flu vaccine, if employees have a formal and approved exemption for the COVID-19 vaccine, masks and social distancing will be required at all times while on NCH campuses.

NCH says it will provide PTO to employees who:

  • Experience side effects in the day(s) following receipt of the COVID-19 vaccine(s)
  • Subsequently contracts the COVID-19 virus
  • Has an unvaccinated child under 12 years old who contracts the COVID-19 virus

We spoke to people about what it would take for them to get the shot.

“More testing and more information out there to ease people’s minds that it could cause health issues later on,” Santiago Ramos said.

“I will not take a vaccine when I cannot trust the government,” Denise Nystrom said.

“I do think it has become a little too political, but I also understand it is important,” Maria Bartolome said. “So I understand why it also has become like that. I just think we’re now taking it a little too far.”

We didn’t ask anyone we spoke to if they were vaccinated, but we wanted to know what would help the vaccination rates go up.

“I’d have to gain a sense that things were back in order,” Nystrom said. “That everything wasn’t being driven by some political agenda. That they really had our best interest at heart.”

“I would like to see more results,” Bartolome said.

“If manufacturers of these experimental vaccines were actually able to be held accountable for when people do die and, you know, are severely injured for the rest of their life,” Christy Devigili said.

Vaccine manufacturers do have immunity when it comes to lawsuits. Many we spoke to with agree it’s up to the person if they want to get vaccinated or not.

“If people feel safe, they should get vaccinated,” Santiago Ramos said. “By all means do it if you don’t, then, you can also wait for more information, feel safer that way.”

Janos Clark didn’t think twice about getting his shot in the arm.

“We were thinking about our well-being, his well-being,” Clark said.

To Clark, it makes perfect sense a hospital system like NCH would mandate the COVID-19 vaccine for its new employees and volunteers.

“They are a health care provider, so that should really be a no-brainer,” Clark said. “At the end of the day, employers have a right to do what they think is necessary to protect health and safety.”

But there’s plenty of people who believe no boss should have a say about employee getting a vaccine.

“I don’t think you should be forced to do anything that you don’t feel comfortable doing,” Glynna Hamilton said.

“If they don’t want the vaccine, they don’t want the vaccine,” Kaddish Blaise said.

But NCH’s leadership believes its policy is in line with CDC guidelines, and there are some exemptions.

Dr. David Agus agrees the new policy is reasonable.

“Doctors and nurses need to be vaccinated, or they can bring harm to people,” Agus said.

NCH says its new policy complies with all federal, state and local rules and regulations and was based on CDC and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recommendations.

Many said they’re also waiting for the vaccines to be fully approved by the FDA, rather than the current authorization for emergency use.

The hospital system’s policy change comes at a time when COVID-19 cases are rising in Collier County.

Florida Department of Health in Collier County told us 65% of people are vaccinated in the county, and it’s launching a “Crush COVID Collier” campaign to encourage the rest to get the shot.

“Receiving the vaccine is one of the best ways to stop the spread and distribution of COVID-19,” said Kristin Hollingsworth, the public information officer for DOH-Collier.

MORE: NCH Healthcare System employee vaccination policy

Reporter:Justin Kase
Rachel Cox-Rosen
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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