It was an honor to take part in the meeting convened Sept. 15 by President Joe Biden to share the progress Kaiser Permanente has made in mandating COVID-19 vaccination and in helping to end this pandemic.
After a year-and-a-half of this virus controlling and taking away lives, we know that vaccination is the most powerful tool we have to stop this pandemic, to prevent more dangerous strains from developing, and to restore the freedom of safety and normalcy.
As a health care organization, Kaiser Permanente has an obligation to our 12.5 million members and patients — and to our employees, physicians, and communities to ensure their safety and to protect them from infection.
By working closely with our labor partners, we acted swiftly to protect the health and safety of our workforce, as well as our communities, by mandating vaccinations for our more than 216,000 employees and more than 23,000 physicians by Sept. 30 of this year.
In just six weeks since we announced the mandate on Aug. 2, we increased employee vaccination rates from 78 percent to nearly 90 percent — our physician vaccination rates are up to 97 percent — and the numbers continue to grow.
Ultimately, our vaccination mandate is motivating members of our workforce to get educated, to get vaccinated, and do their part to help end this pandemic.
We have also extended the vaccination requirement to the tens of thousands of employees who work for our contractors, vendors, and suppliers who enter Kaiser Permanente facilities each day.
In addition, we are challenging our 40,000 suppliers to adopt their own mandates and have partnered with them to share information and education to address vaccine hesitancy. We are also encouraging more than 2,000 community organizations that Kaiser Permanente supports through grants and program funding to mandate vaccinations.
President Biden’s decision to require federal workers, medium and large employers, and health care staff to get vaccinated is an important and needed step in the current fight against the pandemic. However, government alone cannot solve this challenge. We need the private sector and nonprofit organizations to step up in helping close the vaccination gap in our communities.
As part of Kaiser Permanente’s commitment to lead vaccine efforts across the country, we are calling on other organizations, big and small, to mandate vaccination for their employees, customers, constituents, and other stakeholders.
History has shown us what we can accomplish when our nation comes together. This needs to be one of those times. Through vaccination, we can stop this pandemic for our families, for our friends, for each other, and for our future.
(Greg A. Adams is the chair and chief executive officer of Kaiser Permanente.)