On Thursday July 22nd a rally has been planned near St. Luke's Hospital in Twin Falls due to the requirement for the COVID 19 vaccine to remain employed there. We have information from those who are setting up the rally and from St. Luke's organization as well.

I spoke with Brittney Williams and St. Luke's organization. The rally will be July 22nd from 4 to 6 pm near St. Luke's. A rally similar to this was held in Meridian Monday and over 3 thousand people showed up.

Question: With the COVID 19 vaccination being required, is that an overstep on individual rights?

Williams: We are not anti-vaxxers, we want people to be able to make that choice for themselves. The COVID 19 vaccine has been out even less time than the illness, we want more science and the right to decide what goes in our body.

St. Luke's: This health organization has the health and safety of our employees and our patients in mind. We want everyone to stay healthy. We have been requiring the Flu vaccine for a decade now. This is not something new to health care facilities.

Question: If a person does not want to get the vaccine, why not find a different employer?

Williams: That is easy for someone to say who is not in this situation. They don't understand what we are feeling. We want it to be a personal choice, we want to be able to decide.

St. Luke's: Of course we are worried about the same thing and we don't want that to happen. We are going to do everything we can to keep that from happening. We are going to use clinicians to create opportunities to create conversation with employees so we can answer their legitimate questions that they have so we can have another source of information for them. We are going to bring every resource to keep our team together. But overall it does not change our true north about safety.

Question for Williams: Would the COVID 19 vaccine being FDA approved change your decision to get it?

Williams: No I don't think so. We just want more science about what is going to be put in our body. There is so much of the unknown about the vaccine at this time.

Question for St. Luke's: Are you concerned about legal action from employees making this a requirement for employment?

St. Luke's: We are confident in our decision, we are confident in our guiding principles, the data shows this vaccine is safe and effective. As a health care provider we know and we feel this is an obligation we have to set the example in our community. If such a lawsuit is brought we do feel comfortable in the position we have.

Question for Williams: Do you know if getting the vaccine changes anything for employees in the hospital?

Williams: No not really. Masks are still required even if a person has been vaccinated. Proper hand washing hygiene is always required in a hospital. And even if someone is fully vaccinated they still have to wear a mask. People who have been fully vaccinated are still getting COVID.

Question for St. Luke's: If an employee gets the vaccine, why are they still required to wear masks?

St. Luke's: In alignment with the CDC guidelines, fully vaccinated employees, provider, students and volunteer will no longer be required to wear a mask in non-clinical areas like meeting rooms, business office areas and break rooms where patients, visitors, contractors or members of the public are not present. With the safety and best interest of our patients and team members, in clinical settings where direct patient care is provided, masks will be required regardless of vaccination status. For healthcare workers, the CDC recommends that if anyone in these common areas is unvaccinated, all those present must wear a mask

Questions for Williams: What would you suggest employees do if they do not want to get the vaccine and still work there but keep everyone safe?

Williams: Honestly, I think a mask and PPE gear. It has been working this long and has been good enough. Hand washing, masks, PPE. Everyone wants to keep their patients safe.

Question for St. Luke's: How do you get an exemption?

St. Luke's: You would work with your leader and go through the process we already have in place for influenza and we allow medical exemptions where a group of clinicians over sees those and we allow exemptions for strongly held religious beliefs. We follow the same process we already do with influenza.

Question for Williams: Do you know of people who looked into getting an exemption?

Williams: Yes, I know people who have been denied medical exemptions and religious exemptions. I know of at least two people who have decided to quit because of this.

Question for St. Luke's: What is your response to the planned rally on July 22nd?

St. Luke's: Safety is a top priority for St. Luke's, as is our obligation to protect our staff, patients and communities from vaccine-preventable disease. We are confident in our decision to add the COVID-19 vaccine to our list of required immunizations.

Question for Williams: Do you know the process if an employee decides not to get the vaccine?

Williams: If people are unwilling to get the vaccination, they will not be able to work for St. Luke's. Starting September 1st people will be written up, after that there will be a 30 day suspension and at the end of that if they are not vaccinated, they will be terminated.

We reached out to Intermountain health that has locations in Burley and other areas to ask if they will be requiring vaccinations of their employees.

"Intermountain has not yet made a determination for mandating the COVID vaccines for our caregivers"

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LOOK: Answers to 30 common COVID-19 vaccine questions

While much is still unknown about the coronavirus and the future, what is known is that the currently available vaccines have gone through all three trial phases and are safe and effective. It will be necessary for as many Americans as possible to be vaccinated in order to finally return to some level of pre-pandemic normalcy, and hopefully these 30 answers provided here will help readers get vaccinated as soon they are able.

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