SALT LAKE CITY — Intermountain Healthcare, the largest private employer in the state of Utah, on Wednesday announced that it will require all of its caregivers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Dr. Mark Briesacher, chief physician executive and senior vice president of Intermountain, said the move was made to care for those who depend on the company's healthcare professionals.
"It really comes down to that bottom line that we're going to be there for people when they need us," said Briesacher. "We just can't imagine not doing that."
Briesacher added that having Intermountain comply with federal vaccination guidelines is similar to what it already does with other state and federal standards.
Employees will be expected to have already begun the vaccination process by Jan. 5. Over 75% of the company's caregivers are fully vaccinated, with nearly 85% having started the process.
Medical and religious exemptions will be considered for employees who do not want to receive a vaccine.
If an employee does not receive an exemption and fails to be vaccinated by Feb. 9, they will then begin to be "separated" from the organization, according to Briesacher.
"We're going to continually have a safer and safer place to work," said Briesacher. "We know vaccines are safe. We know they're effective, and I think this is a really important step forward for Intermountain Healthcare and the communities that we serve."
The move is a reversal of what Intermountain Healthcare President and CEO Dr. Marc Harrison said in September. Back then, Harrison said the company would not require vaccinations due to employees having topped an 80% threshold and "getting better every day"
"We believe in people's ability to make decisions for themselves, and they're generally making what I would consider to be very, very good decisions and more every day. So clearly, we don't believe that mandates are the answer to every problem." Harrison said on Sept. 10.