Spectrum Health, the West Michigan hospital system, said they will grant temporary exemptions from its employee vaccine mandate to staff who can prove they have natural immunity to Covid-19.
Those who have a positive PCR test or antigen test for Covid-19 plus a positive antibody test from within the past three months will be made exempt from the hospital system’s vaccine mandate.
The exemption, which is a first for a major health system in Michigan, was introduced “as new research has emerged” on natural immunity.
In a recent statement, Spectrum Health said: “While we still recommend vaccination for people with prior COVID-19 infection, according to this new research, there is increasing evidence that natural infection affords protection from COVID-19 reinfection and severe symptoms for a period of time.
“Current studies are not clear on how long natural immunity protects from reinfection.”
If future evidence shows that naturally acquired protection is waning or longer-lasting, or if there is a validated antibody test result showing immunity, policy could be updated to reflect this.
In late July, Spectrum Health announced that it would require all employees to be fully vaccinated within eight weeks of the Food and Drug Administration approving a vaccine, but noted that it would consider some exemptions.
These exemptions include religious and medical exemptions determined by a medical exemption committee. The hospital system’s medical exemption committee recommended the health system allow for a temporary exemption for natural immunity based on available research.
Other health systems such as Henry Ford Health System, Beaumont Health and Trinity Health Michigan have all required employees to get the Covid-19 vaccine with no exemptions for naturally acquired immunity.
Spectrum and Beaumont are currently in the process of merging and recently signed a formal integration agreement to move the process ahead. Both health systems hope to launch a new system this autumn.
Currently, it’s unclear whether Spectrum Health’s new policy will have any influence on Beaumont workers who are not granted the same natural immunity exemption.
Bob Ortlieb, a spokesman for Beaumont said: “We can’t speculate on what will happen in the future.”
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