Memphis hospitals encourage COVID vaccination, but most don’t require it for employees


MEMPHIS, Tenn. — This week more than 50 health organizations, including the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, called for all health care workers to be required to get vaccinated.             

In Memphis, the COVID surge has many hospitals addressing whether its frontline workers should be fully vaccinated.

The Department of Veterans Affairs and St. Jude Children’s Hospital are requiring workers be vaccinated. For others, the shot is “strongly encouraged.”

“It’s not mandatory except for St. Jude in the city in terms of hospitals and health care facilities,” said Dr. Steve Threlkeld, an infectious disease specialist with Baptist Hospital in Memphis.

Threlkeld says Baptist, like many other hospitals.. is just encouraging health care workers to get their shots.

“I think all the hospitals locally right now are focusing on putting everything we can out there to convince people to do it, because it’s the right thing to do,” he said.

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital announced earlier this month all employees must be vaccinated against COVID-19 by September 9, unless there’s an exemption for religious or medical reasons, stating “we must do all that we can to protect our patients.” 

Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare said in a statement, “We continue to follow CDC guidelines and while we strongly encourage employees to get vaccinated, we have not mandated it at this time.”

St. Francis Hospital said, “While we currently do not require our staff to get the COVID-19 vaccine, we encourage everyone to be vaccinated and to practice safe behaviors.”

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Threlkeld pointed out that most hospitals mandate flu vaccines and no-smoking policies, so it could also happen with COVID vaccines.

“So far there’s been a sensitivity about trying to reach sort of a community standard and certainly to respect people’s rights to what they do with their health care,” Threlkeld said. “I think when and if it’s FDA approved, I think you’ll see that change the landscape a bit. A lot more people will push for businesses of all types including healthcare facilities will push on for mandatory vaccines.”

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