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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Saint Luke’s Health System announced Monday it will require all employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Employees at the Kansas City health system will have until Oct. 30 to get vaccinated.

Saint Luke’s decision comes as Kansas City is experiencing a rapid increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, leaving hospitals stressed.

“COVID-19 is spreading rapidly and is causing devastating loss. As healthcare professionals, the most important action each of us can take to end this pandemic is to get vaccinated,” said Melinda L. Estes, MD, Saint Luke’s Health System President and CEO.

“As a respected and trusted healthcare leader, it is incumbent upon us as an organization to ensure we are doing everything in our power to protect the health of our community, our patients, and our staff. This policy aligns our commitment, mission, and values with tangible action.”

The requirement will also apply to licensed independent medical staff members, allied health professionals, contracted personnel, student affiliates, and volunteers.

Employees can request a medical or religious exemption, which will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. But anyone who is granted an exemption will be required to undergo weekly COVID-19 testing.

Saint Luke’s is the latest Kansas City area health system to require employees to get vaccinated.

In July, Truman Medical Centers/University Health announced set a Sept. 20 deadline for its staff to get fully vaccinated against COVID. The Department of Veterans Affairs is also requiring its health care workers get COVID-19 vaccines, including those at the Kansas City VA Hospital.

In mid-August, President Joe Biden announced that nursing home staff be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition for their facilities to continue receiving federal Medicare and Medicaid funding.

All those decisions came before the Pfizer vaccine received full FDA approval for those ages 16 and older last week after months of testing and reviews.

“The data has demonstrated overwhelmingly that the vaccines are safe, effective, and our best opportunity to end the spread of this virus,” Saint Lukes CEO Estes said. “There is no question this decision will save lives and is the right thing to do.”

Since Pfizer’s FDA approval, several other companies have also mandated vaccines.

From Walt Disney World to Goldman Sachs, a flurry of private and public employers are now requiring workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19.