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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Thousands of employees were notified by the University of Kansas Health System Wednesday that they will be required to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

The requirement also applies to volunteers, students, temporary employees, and contractors who work in the system’s Kansas City-area facilities.

Hospital leaders said they studied data and CDC guidance before announcing the policy. They pointed to evidence that shows vaccines provide the best protection against the COVID-19 virus developing into a severe infection. They also said the data shows vaccines prevent hospitalizations and deaths.

Part of the reason the policy is being announced now is because the FDA recently granted the Pfizer vaccine full approval, according to the health system. Leaders also said hospitals across the area are seeing an increase in people hospitalized because of COVID-19, and vaccines can help prevent that.

In the past, KU Health System has said its vaccination rates are higher than average rates in both Kansas and Missouri, but there are still employees who haven’t been fully vaccinated.

“We are always committed to providing the very best and safest care for our patients,” Tammy Peterman, RN, FAAN, president of the Kansas City division for The University of Kansas Health System, said. “We know we are making the right decision for our organization, our employees, our patients, and physicians. We continue to strongly encourage everyone in our community to get vaccinated.”

KU Health said the mandate is similar to other employment requirements including flu vaccinations and being up-to-date on MMR and tetanus shots, all of which help ensure everyone’s safety.

Anyone who is not fully vaccinated has until Dec. 1, to do get the shot or shots.

Liberty Hospital, Truman Medical and St. Luke’s Hospitals have also announced vaccine requirements for employees.

The federal government is also working on a mandate requiring all employees at long-term care facilities to be fully vaccinated.