August 17, 2021
Tower Health will require its workers to be fully vaccinated once the U.S. Food and Drug Administration grants full approval to one of the available COVID-19 vaccines.
The Berks County-based health system, which has six hospitals in the Philadelphia region, is the latest medical provider to mandate vaccinations.
The policy will affect current employees, new hires and contracted staffers, Tower Health said Tuesday. The requirement for unionized workers will be subject to discussions between Tower Health and their respective unions.
"We will take this step because it is the right thing to do, it is consistent with our mission to provide high-quality care and it is vital to our obligation to keep our patients and colleagues safe," Tower Health CEO Sue Perrotty said.
"Tower Health has been a leader in fighting COVID-19 in our region for more than 18 months. Throughout every phase of this pandemic, our team has continued to show up for our patients and each other and I cannot thank them enough for that. This next step in the ongoing fight to end the pandemic is fundamental to our mission to provide high-quality health care to our community."
The three vaccines currently available in the U.S. have been authorized for emergency use.
The FDA is expected to grant approval to Pfizer and BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine by early September, the New York Times reported. Moderna filed for approval earlier this summer, but the company is still submitting clinical trial data to U.S. regulators. Johnson & Johnson is expected to seek approval later this year.
Health officials are hopeful that approving a COVID-19 vaccine will help spur vaccinations and slow the spread of the highly-contagious delta variant.
Tower Health's announcement comes just days after Philadelphia officials said all health care employees working in the city will need to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 15.
Exemptions will be permitted for medical or religious reasons, but exempt workers will be required to wear double masks while indoors, practice social distancing and undergo COVID-19 testing twice a week.
The city's policy affects two of Tower Health's hospitals: Chestnut Hill Hospital and St. Christopher's Hospital for Children.
Tower Health has four other hospitals in the Philly region: Phoenixville Hospital, Jennersville Hospital and Brandywine Hospital in Chester County, as well as Pottstown Hospital in Montgomery County. The health system also has a number of urgent care centers in the area.
The spread of the delta variant has led to an uptick in COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths in the U.S. over the last month. Delta has become the dominant COVID-19 variant in the U.S.
Every county in the Philly region is currently experiencing substantial or high levels of COVID-19 transmission, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.