All Things Considered

'We have a moral obligation to do this': Episcopal Homes requires employees to get vaccinated

A name tag with a sticker on it.
Inez Kalle, director of nursing for Episcopal Homes in St. Paul, Minn., wears a sticker on her name badge to encourage other employees to get their COVID-19 vaccine in May.
Evan Frost | MPR News file

As the delta variant drives up case counts among the unvaccinated and a small number of breakthrough cases are reported, Episcopal Homes hopes to prevent the kind of deadly outbreaks that long-term care facilities experienced last year.  

Starting September 1, Episcopal Homes will require staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19. CEO Marvin Plakut said, adding that mandating the vaccine was not an easy decision and that some employees have been quite resistant. Eighty percent of the care provider’s staff are currently vaccinated.

“We have a moral obligation to do this,” Plakut told host John Wanamaker.

Episcopal Homes serves older people and those with pre-existing conditions — groups that are at high risk of serious illness if infected.

Although the risk of breakthrough infections among vaccinated individuals is very rare, Plakut said the increased prevalence of variants is a factor in the decision to mandate vaccines for all staff.

“The science is saying that the vaccine is the best guard against getting COVID-19,” he said.

Episcopal Homes has had two breakthrough cases to date, he told MPR News — one resident and one staff member.

Plakut said he anticipates that a small percentage of unvaccinated staff will leave Episcopal Homes in response to the vaccine mandate, but he remains hopeful that the majority will choose to get vaccinated.

“We want all staff to stay at Episcopal Homes. They are all very valuable members of our team,” he said. “But we simply cannot allow this risk to our elders to continue.”

Access to vaccines is no longer a problem for his staff, Plakut said. Vaccines will be offered at Episcopal Homes facilities. He said much of the hesitancy is due to misinformation spread online and by friends.

“We do our best to combat that — to stress the facts,” he said. “And we hope they’ll come to see that science needs to prevail.”

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