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‘Right thing to do’, infectious disease expert says about vaccination requirement for St. Jude employees

Published: Jul. 15, 2021 at 5:15 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - St. Jude cites science in their reasoning as the rapid rise of the more severe Delta variant of COVID-19 spreads across the Mid-South.

Employees here have eights weeks to get vaccinated or face termination.

In a memo sent to employees, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital CEO James Downing said much research, analysis and discussion went into the hospital’s decision to require all employees without a religious or medical exemption be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Sept. 9.

The memo reads: “It is the right thing to keep our campus safe. Our duty to our patients frames everything we do. This is the logical next step to ensure we stay one step ahead of the virus.”.

“I was delighted,” Dr. Minoj Jain, infectious disease expert said. “I think it’s the right thing to do, I think it’s the best thing that we can do for our community, for the patients.”

Jain, infectious disease expert and member of the Memphis Shelby County COVID-19 Task Force says this decision will have ripple affects across the Mid-South and the nation.

“St. Jude is a nationally reputable organization and it will really set a precedent for other organizations nationally to say this is what we have to do,” Jain said.

According to the memo – “By Sept. 10, employees who have refused vaccination or do not have an approved medical or religious exemption will be put on an unpaid administrative leave for two weeks. During this time, they have the opportunity to begin the vaccination process. Those who fail to start the vaccination process will be terminated at the end of the two-week period.”

“As soon as I got the news yesterday about the mandate I immediately called and cancelled my monthly donation,” a Memphian named Hellen said.

A woman who identified herself as Hellen called WMC Action News 5 to voice her complaints about the mandate.

She said she has unvaccinated relatives who work at St. Jude and the September deadline doesn’t provide enough time for them to find new employment.

“I believe that by mandating such things, takes away our rights,” Hellen said. “To have something foreign injected into somebody’s body should be a choice.”

“I can’t agree with them, we have to be thinking about the public good, our patient’s good,” Jain said. “We have been doing it for other vaccines, we’re doing it for the influenza vaccine.”

Representatives from Methodist Le Bonheur Heathcare, Baptist Memorial Healthcare, St. Francis Hospital and Regional One Hospital told us they have no plans at this time to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for employees.

Representatives from St. Jude were unavailable for comment on-camera Thursday.

Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris says St. Jude’s decision simply makes sense considering the hospital’s vulnerable population.

In the memo sent by the hospital’s CEO, Dr. Downing notes the team of world-renowned researchers and clinicians available to speak with any St. Jude employee still hesitant about receiving the vaccine.

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