The three major health care providers in the Lehigh Valley are banding together to make a statement about the COVID-19 vaccine’s efficacy by requiring all of their employees to be vaccinated.
In a news release Monday, top officials from St. Luke’s University Health Network (SLUHN), Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) and Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network said their organizations will “shortly introduce policies that will require all employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.” The statement indicated that the new policies “will also apply to everyone who works or conducts business within the health care organizations.”
“Our health care systems continue to combat the ongoing COVID-19 virus and are committed to the safety of every patient in our care and every colleague on our team,” said Brian A. Nester, DO, MBA, President and Chief Executive Officer, LVHN; Rick Anderson, President and Chief Executive Officer, SLUHN, and Michael Spigel, PT, MHA, President and Chief Executive Officer, Good Shepherd Rehabilitation, in a joint statement. “Being vaccinated is essential to save lives and finally end this pandemic. Vaccines are a modern miracle and a triumph of modern medicine and unquestionably have proven to be extremely effective.”
The three CEOs offered the following statistics to demonstrate that the vaccine is safe:
- Since December 2020, more than 349 million doses of vaccine have been administered in the U.S.
- COVID-19 vaccines have undergone and continue to undergo the most intensive safety monitoring program of any vaccine in U.S. history.
- Serious side effects that could cause a long-term health problem are extremely unlikely following any vaccination, including COVID-19 vaccination.
- Current data does not identify any safety concerns for pregnant women who were vaccinated against COVID-19 or for their unborn child.
The news release did not identify the percentage of employees who are currently vaccinated at each network. Speaking at an event in May, Anderson reported that 87 percent of SLUHN had been vaccinated against COVID-19 as of that time.
The vaccine is currently approved for use in individuals 12 and older.
As of Monday, according to data available from CovidActNow.org, 58.7 percent of Northampton County residents had received one dose of the vaccine and 53.4 percent of residents were fully vaccinated, while in Lehigh County 61.2 percent of residents had received one dose and 56 percent were fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Both counties have a risk level that is high, according to the data provided by Covid Act Now, with Northampton County reporting the highest daily average of new cases per 100,000 residents (18.4) in the state as of Monday. However, since last week the county’s infection rate has dropped from 1.42 to 1.34.
Statewide, 66.6 percent of residents have received one dose of the vaccine and 53.1 percent are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to Covid Act Now.
The daily average of new cases per 100,000 residents in Pennsylvania currently stands at 12.4, which is the highest it has been since mid-May. Other key indicators of COVID’s severity statewide–including infection rate and positive test rate–have also risen precipitously in recent weeks to their highest levels since May.
Rates of infection as well as daily caseloads have recently risen even more dramatically in other states with lower vaccination rates than Pennsylvania’s, with the surge nationwide fueled by the highly transmissable Delta variant of COVID–which has become the most common–and ongoing vaccine hesitancy among certain segments of the U.S. population.