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Healthcare

Monument Health joins Avera and Sanford with employee COVID-19 vaccine mandate

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Monument Health

Monument Health in Rapid City is requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for its physicians and caregivers.

It’s the last of South Dakota's three major health systems to implement a vaccine requirement for employees.

Dr. Shankar Kurra is the vice president of medical affairs with Monument Health. He says the move is to prevent severe illness and death.

“We were waiting for the FDA to grant approval. That way we can have the confidence to tell our employees that we are authorizing vaccination requirement, just like we’ve done for the flu,” Kurra said. “We are a health system, to do the right thing to safeguard our patients and families and get the vaccination rate up.”

Monument's requirement begins December first. The health system will consider exemptions for medical problems and sincerely held religious beliefs. Just over 55 percent of employed staff are currently vaccinated. Kurra expects 80 percent will end up getting inoculated.

Sanford and Avera in Sioux Falls previously announced requirements for their workers. Both of those health systems have faced protests against their policies.

South Dakota has more than 7,000 active COVID-19 cases. Monument Health recently converted some regular hospital beds to ICU beds to handle an influx of COVID patients. The majority of those patients are unvaccinated.