GREAT FALLS — Benefis Health System in Great Falls said last week that the COVID vaccine will be mandatory for all employees.
John Goodnow, the CEO of Benefis, said in a company-wide email that the process for mandatory vaccinations will begin in May. Employees can request deferrals for medical and religious reasons.
He compared the requirement to the long-standing policy of requiring annual flu shots for all employees; an employee newsletter dated April 5th states:
The requirement for the COVID-19 vaccine falls in line with our current policy on the influenza vaccine. We are tasked with providing a safe environment for both our patients and our staff. Knowing that all of our employees are vaccinated will allow the community to trust that their safety is our priority. It should also allow our employees to know that they are safe here at work.
Some employees are concerned because the annual flu shot is FDA-approved, whereas COVID vaccines are currently being used in an "emergency use authorization" capacity. Click here to learn more about EUA on the FDA website.
As of April 5th, about 64% of Benefis employees have been vaccinated. The deadline for employees to be vaccinated is July 1st.
The Benefis employee newsletter includes the following details:
April 9 and 23: Vaccine clinics for those needing their first doses are scheduled in Classroom 5 on East Campus. Talk to your manager if you’d like to get vaccinated early.
May 1: Deadline to submit deferrals for medical, religious, and medical delay (prior vaccinations, procedures, etc., where your provider recommends delaying the vaccine). Reach out to your primary care provider as soon as possible if you need to submit a deferral form. Providers in Employee Health and in the urgent care clinics are not available to complete them for you. Access the forms here by clicking on the type of deferral you need: medical, religious, or medical delay.
July 1: Deadline for all employees who are not exempt from deferral to receive their second doses.
We have seen reports of people claiming that mandating an EUA-vaccine is illegal, but do not yet know if any employer-mandated policies have been formally challenged in any court.
The federal Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) says that more than 167 million doses of COVID vaccine have been administered in the U.S. through April 5, 2021, adding that the vaccines were evaluated in tens of thousands of participants in clinical trials: "The vaccines met FDA’s rigorous scientific standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality needed to support emergency use authorization."
In contrast, Great Falls Clinic told MTN News this week that, at this time, it is not mandating COVID vaccinations for its employees.