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Madison VA now latest health care provider to require staff to get vaccinated

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MADISON (WKOW) -- The Delta variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 is continuing to attack unvaccinated people, and now more health care providers will be requiring staff to get vaccinated so they don't get themselves or patients sick.

The Department of Veterans Affairs became the first major federal agency to issue a vaccine requirement for health care workers. A spokesperson with the William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital in Madison confirmed that Madison's VA and clinics are part of that mandate. Staff will have eight weeks to get vaccinated.

The VA hospital will not be the first to require vaccines in our area, however.

"The response has been very positive," said SSM Health's Mo Kharbat.

SSM Health announced last month that it would be requiring vaccinations for all employees by the end of September.

"We want to prevent the next variant, and the next variant, and the only way to do it is to get vaccinated so the virus doesn't have a medium in which it can spread," Kharbat said.

Kharbat says about 80 percent of staff are vaccinated already, but he maintains a mandate for staff is still the best thing for patients.

"The last thing we want to see is for any individual who's on the fence as to whether they should get the vaccine ask a health care worker, and the health care worker tells them, 'Well, I'm not vaccinated,'" he said.

UW Health is not requiring staff to get vaccinated, and released a statement to 27 News saying that they're always re-evaluating the situation based on current data:

"We take every opportunity to encourage all of our providers and staff to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, which 90 percent of them have done. We continually assess how to further protect our patients and staff with updated policies and procedures based on the best available evidence."

Emily Kumlien, UW Health Spokesperson

While many health care organizations and other employers are still on the fence Kharbat says he expects the threat of the Delta variant to spark more vaccine mandates soon.

"Federal and state agencies who employ health care workers will likely make the vaccine mandatory," he said. "The only way to stop (the virus) is by getting vaccinated."

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Andrew Merica

Reporter/Producer, 27 News

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