COLUMBIA, S.C. — Three hospitals in South Carolina now require medical personnel to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Hospital officials say others are having conversations on whether to mandate them or not.
MUSC was the first hospital in the state to require employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in April. Spokesperson Heather Woolwine said the decision "all comes down to something very simple, and that is: First due no harm."
Woolwine explained that anyone with patient contact was required to get vaccinated, which is about 17,000 employees. Roughly 2-3,000 of them were granted medical or religious exemptions.
"We understand when people want to make personal decisions if they disagree with a policy. However, we have a responsibility to make sure that safety is our number one priority for our patients,” said Woolwine.
Five employees were let go that didn’t comply with the new policy but Woolwine said several other issues lead to their separation as well.
Tidelands Health in Myrtle Beach announced this month they’re mandating the shot and The Department of Veteran Affairs announced Monday they are too.
“Hospitals have a very important responsibility to create very safe environments for patients, employees, and communities that they serve,” Chief Operating Officer of the South Carolina Hospital Association Melanie Matney told News19.
Matney said many hospitals are discussing the possibility of requiring the vaccine as coronavirus cases rise.
"The next few weeks I think we'll see some additional messaging coming out,” she said.
This comes as new data shows a significant number of hospital workers are not getting vaccinated. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1 in 4 had not received a single dose by May of this year.
News19 reached out to Lexington Medical Center to see how they’re faring. The hospital said 63% of their employees are fully vaccinated.
“We know that many organizations are calling for all health care workers to be vaccinated. We are engaged in that dialogue and evaluating our options for the future," wrote a spokesperson for Lexington Medical Center.
They’re currently incentivizing employees to get the shot with a raffle. The grand prize is a new car.
Prisma Health said they’re also incentivizing the vaccine with a lottery. They didn’t share how many of their employees are fully vaccinated but said they’re not requiring it at this time.