Mesa County Public Health holds vaccination press conference

Published: Aug. 13, 2021 at 11:57 AM MDT|Updated: Aug. 13, 2021 at 10:59 PM MDT
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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) - Mesa County Public Health held a news conference this morning with local hospitals regarding COVID-19 vaccines. Hospital officials from St. Mary’s, Community Hospital, Family Health West, and Mind Springs collectively announced a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all their employees effective November 1st.

MCPH joins the growing number of other healthcare organizations who are requiring the universal vaccination of their workers. They recognize that some employees will be exempted from the vaccine mandate for identified medical or religious reasons.

Mesa County Public Health Executive Director Jeff Kuhr read the collective statement from the hospital officials, “Due to the recent COVID-19 surge and highly contagious variants. The healthcare organizations standing with us today will now require COVID-19 vaccinations for their staff. This is the logical fulfillment and ethical commitment to put patients first and take all steps necessary to ensure their health and wellbeing. We recognize that some could be excepted from a mandate for identified medical or religious reasons.”

Director Kuhr continued, “Specific policies and effective dates may vary in each organization. Still all are in alignment. That vaccination is the primary way to put the pandemic behind us and avoid the return of stringent public health measures.”

Mesa County Public Health Director Jeff Kuhr does go on to say specific policies and effective dates can vary at each organization. But November 1st is what they are all aiming for. Health officials say vaccination is key to protect those who remain unvaccinated such as children under 12 and vulnerable immunocompromised individuals.

“COVID-19 vaccination is the most effective way of preventing serious illness & death in folks who could contract it,” said St. Mary’s MD & Chief Medical Officer Dr. Andrew Jones. “It’s helpful to protect our staff & patients from contracting COVID-19 from each other. It’s also the right thing to do to lead by example in our community.”

Health officials go on to say they expect pushback from employees but that there could possibly be exceptions made on a case by case basis dependent on employee’s health conditions & religious beliefs.

“We think one of the biggest things that can help us is if the FDA would get busy & get it approved,” said Community Hospital President & CEO Chris Thomas. “We hear studies anywhere from 20-50% of unvaccinated people are saying that because of the FDA approval that’s what they’re waiting for. So we’re hoping that’ll be soon. Potentially by labor day.”

Health officials go on to say the delta variant is about 50% more infectious than the original strain. So it’s really important that everyone that can get vaccinated does so - in order to protect those who can’t.

“Since May 23, 100% of our positive tests that were sent to the lab & genetically sequenced have been the delta variant,” said Family Health West President & CEO Dr. Korrey Klein. “We have very high levels of delta variant here and because it’s so infectious it tends to be infecting kids at a higher rate so it’s really important that we stop transmission however we can.”

Dr. Andrew Jones says most patients hospitalized for COVID-19 in Mesa County are unvaccinated. The vaccine mandate was determined so that health care providers can lead by example and prevent possible spread to their patients and other employees, according to officials.

Health officials stress that education and immunity and getting everyone vaccinated is the key to putting all historic pandemics behind us, including this one. Community Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. Thomas Tobin stated these vaccines have been given in more quantity than any other medication or vaccine in history prior to getting FDA approval. Saying it’s the perfect study to prove safety and efficacy.

The hospital officials stressed the importance of staff members receiving the vaccine in order to keep employees healthy and to better serve the community.

“It’s critical to our mission to provide healthcare to our patients and our community, to have our staff healthy. Also to protect patients from not getting the virus as best we can. And for us to be able to do that then we need to have our staff present, healthy, and able to care for our patients, so that’s why the vaccine is going to be important,” said Doctor Thomas Tobin, Chief Medical Officer of Community Hospital.

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