By Mike Kruzman /

A local hospital system is requiring that their staff be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Trinity Health, which operates the St. Joseph Mercy Livingston hospital and St. Joseph Mercy Brighton Health Center made the announcement today. Effective immediately, their entire health system requires all clinical staff, contractors, and those conducting business in their facilities to have the coronavirus vaccine.

Trinity Health Michigan president and CEO Rob Casalou said, in a release, that as a faith-based health care system, they have pledged to protect the most vulnerable and those that have a high risk of developing severe health complications if they were to contract the virus. He said they are grateful to all their colleagues working in hospitals and on the frontline, and that they understand that not everyone will agree with the decision. After listening to feedback and giving careful consideration, Casalou said they know this is the right decision.

Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Rosalie Tocco-Bradley said there is a widespread acceptance of the vaccine in the medical community, and the science is clear that they prevent against infection and save lives.

Employees must now meet a series of rolling deadlines, with most locations requiring staff to submit proof of vaccination by September 21st. Exemptions for religious or health reasons must be formally requested, documented and approved. Employees who fail to meet the criteria for exemption and fail to show proof of vaccination will be terminated.

State Sen. Lana Theis, R-Brighton, issued the following statement on Thursday:

“Health care system, or not, at will employee, or not — no job provider should be able to require an employee to get an experimental, emergency use COVID-19 vaccine if they do not want one. Never in American history have people been required to receive a medical treatment that does not have full FDA approval. Further, the waiver process should be followed if they have medical or religious objections, and especially if an employee has already recovered from the virus. Naturally acquired immunity is being ignored by many in the medical community, even though a recent study conducted by the Cleveland Clinic of prior infected employees showed absolutely no reinfection and, thus, no need for a vaccination. Of course, anyone wishing to get the shot should, and I would never discourage people from making that decision. But, employers should not be involved in people’s medical decisions. Recommending, let alone requiring, a medical treatment that would benefit anyone other than the individual receiving the treatment violates a core tenant of medical ethics. It’s not right, and it should not be legal.”

Bobby Maldanado, Senior Public Relations and Media Specialist for the St. Joseph Mercy Health System, responded to Senator Theis' comments by email to WHMI on Friday morning, writing:

"We respect everyone's right to have an opinion. Trinity Health Michigan stands by its decision yesterday, which was based entirely on science and safety.

As a trusted health care leader in the state of Michigan we are obligated to provide accurate medical information about the COVID-19 vaccine. First, exemptions are being made for those Trinity Health colleagues who have medical conditions that prohibit vaccination and those with strongly held religious beliefs.

Second, natural immunity, while offering some protection, does not offer the same high-level protection provided by a vaccine. According to the CDC, "Current evidence suggests that reinfection with the virus that causes COVID-19 is uncommon in the 90 days after initial infection. However, experts don’t know for sure how long this protection lasts, and the risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19 far outweighs any benefits of natural immunity."

Finally, the Cleveland Clinic study referenced was conducted by a younger and healthier group than the general population. The study states: "[W]e do not know how long the immune system will protect itself against re-infection after COVID-19. It is safe to receive the COVID-19 vaccine even if you have previously tested positive, and we recommend all those who are eligible receive it.”

Our health system’s Core Value of Safety calls on us to do everything we can to protect ourselves, our colleagues, our patients and the communities we serve. The COVID-19 vaccine is the single most effective tool in slowing, and even stopping, the spread of COVID-19. Simply put, it saves lives."