Southwest Missouri health system requires employee vaccines

Associated Press

JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) — CoxHealth in southwest Missouri will require its employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19, officials said Monday.

The announcement from CoxHealth, which is based in Springfield but has several facilities in the region, came hours after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave its full approval to the Pfizer vaccine. 

Employees will be required to have at least one shot of the vaccine by Oct. 15. CoxHealth CEO Steve Edwards said "careful consideration" would be given to exemptions for religious or health reasons. Those given exemptions will be required to be tested. 

In early July, the Mercy health system announced it would require all workers to be vaccinated by Sept. 30 or face losing their jobs. 

CoxHealth officials said about 70% of the system's employees are already vaccinated, including more than 90% of its physicians. 

"This decision is ultimately led by science, which has shown us that vaccinations are the way we can end this pandemic," Edwards said in a statement. "Ultimately, this decision has been made in support of our most urgent priority of protecting our employees, patients and community."

State health officials said 44% of Missouri residents had completed vaccinations as of Monday.