San Diego health care systems reported an increase in vaccinations among staff as California’s vaccine mandate went into effect Thursday. Health care workers who refuse the COVID-19 shot and aren’t eligible for an exemption may be terminated.
“We went from 85% [of employees vaccinated] to around 96, 97%,” said Chris Van Gorder, President and Chief Executive Officer for Scripps Health. Van Gorder said even more employees were getting vaccinated or turning in vaccination cards throughout the day on Thursday. And he said only 37 employees had refused the vaccine by Thursday afternoon.
“At this point we believe there’s going to be less than 1% of our roughly 16,800 employees that will be terminated as a result of the mandate,” said Van Gorder.
About 145 other employees were expected to be suspended by the end of the day Thursday if they didn’t provide proof of vaccination or an exemption. Van Gorder said Scripps Health is accepting religious and medical exemptions in addition to exemptions for pregnant women. Van Gorder said 541 exemptions had been granted.
The numbers are similar across San Diego County. UC San Diego Health, Sharp Healthcare, Palomar Health, Rady Children’s Hospital and Kaiser Permanente are also reporting vaccination rates over 90%. Each spokesperson for the networks reported a significant increase in the number of employees vaccinated over the past couple weeks.
A spokesperson for Sharp Healthcare reported, “We are almost at 93% (92.6%) vaccinated with our total workforce of 18,201 employees. 690 (3.8%) are exempt (religious or medical reasons); 224 (1.2%) are partially vaccinated and 440 (2.4%) employees remain unvaccinated (no dose at all)."
At Rady Children’s Hospital, staff who refuse a vaccine may be moved to non-patient contact duties, according to Ben Metcalf, a spokesperson for the hospital.
“We are working with employees who are unvaccinated to determine the best course of action for each individual, including options to remain unvaccinated in a non-patient contact position.”
But still, there are hundreds, across the county, who will not be returning to work because they don’t want the shot.
“I feel for every single one of them and I hope over time they will change their minds and come back to work with us,” said Van Gorder, about the 37 Scripps Employees scheduled to be fired. Gorder said employees who have been terminated will have 30 days to get vaccinated and return to work if they chose to.