Executives with 11 hospitals and health care systems across Kentucky on Thursday announced they will require all employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
The health care leaders spoke at a news conference with Gov. Andy Beshear to present a unified front to get more Kentuckians vaccinated, as COVID-19 cases spike and the highly contagious delta variant accelerates the increase.
Gov. Beshear said private sectors leaders can encourage people who know them in their communties to get vaccinated.
Beshear also said Kentuckians who don't respond to government pleas to get vaccinated are likely to get the vaccine if it's required by their private sector employer.
The health care systems adding this vaccine requirement for staff include: Appalachian Regional Healthcare (ARH), Baptist Health, CHI Saint Joseph Health, King's Daughters Health System, Med Center Health, Norton Healthcare, Pikeville Medical Center, St. Claire Healthcare, St. Elizabeth Healthcare, UK Healthcare and UofL Health.
One of those taking part in Thurday's press conference was Melinda Joyce, the Vice President of Corporate Support Services for Med Center Health in Bowling Green.
Joyce said her friend and Med Center colleague, Dr. Rebecca Shadowen, lost her life to COVID-19 one year ago. Joyce said she and Dr. Shadowen had many conversations about how a vaccine could completely change the course of the pandemic.
“I am so pleased to be part of this unified approach today," said Joyce. "And I think the decision that is made is one of the ways we can honor the memory of Dr. Shadowen, as well as all of those others that lost their lives to COVID.”
The health care systems taking part in the announcement said all their employees will have to begin a complete COVID-19 vaccination series by Sept. 15.
Gov. Beshear said it's important to get more Kentuckians vaccinated especially to prevent the spread to children who are not eligible for the vaccine. He pointed to national statistics released this week about COVID cases among young people.
“COVID-19 cases among children and teenagers are up 84 percent in one week," said Beshear. " I know I say it a lot, but I’m a dad of a 12 and an 11-year-old that I love more than life itself and this ought to be setting off alarm bells in everybody. Your kids are not a proxy for a political battle.”)
Beshear said there were 543 cases of COVID-19 among Kentucky children 12 and under in June. That number rose to 2,092 in July.