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COLUMBIA, Mo. — University of Missouri Health Care will require all employees, students and providers to be fully vaccinated, the health system said Thursday.

MU Health Care said those who work, learn or practice medicine at its facilities will need to get inoculated by Oct. 1, unless they’re granted a medical or religious exemption.

The mid-Missouri health system said cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue to climb, mostly due to the Delta variant. Majority of MU Health Care’s COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated, and the same rings true for cases nationwide.

“The safety of our patients, employees and community is our top priority,” said Jonathan Curtright, MU Health Care’s chief executive officer. “As a health system, our mission is to save and improve lives. We know vaccinations save lives.”

MU Health Care isn’t the first to make the COVID-19 vaccine a requirement for workers. Nearly 90 other health care organizations across the U.S. have done the same, including Truman Medical Centers and the VA hospital in Kansas City.

The health system said requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for its employees aligns with recommendations from organizations like the American Hospital Association, American Medical Association, American Nurses Association, American Public Health Association and many others.

“Since the vaccines first became available, we have strongly encouraged all employees to become vaccinated against COVID-19, as the vaccine is safe, effective and the best way to keep our communities safe,” said Rick Barohn, MD, executive vice chancellor for health affairs for MU. “We are pleased that, across our health system, we have reached a nearly 70% employee vaccination rate, but we can do better.”

Truman Medical previously said requiring health care workers to be vaccinated is nothing new. There are long-standing practices that require them to be vaccinated against other serious infectious diseases.

MU Health Care’s Oct. 1 deadline gives employees time to get vaccinated before flu season, it said.

For additional information, please see its COVID-19 employee vaccination requirements FAQs.