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PEORIA — OSF HealthCare will require all its employees to be vaccinated for COVID-19 by the end of September, the Peoria-based system announced Wednesday.

In making the announcement, OSF, which has hospitals and health facilities in Champaign and Vermilion counties, said it “continues to follow the science on COVID-19 vaccines and assesses the pandemic situation overall.”

“We did not make this decision lightly,” said Dr. Mike Cruz, OSF’s chief operating officer.

“As health care providers, it is our ethical obligation to be vigilant about the safety of our patients. Vaccinations are credited with the decline in COVID-19 hospitalizations and cases across the country and throughout our ministry, and we firmly believe that vaccination against COVID-19 is the best way to keep our patients and mission partners safe.”

Both Carle Health and Christie Clinic continue to make COVID-19 vaccination optional for their employees, spokespeople for both providers said Wednesday.

Carle spokesman Kaleb Miller said vaccination is still “strongly encouraged” among Carle employees, but is not mandated.

Miller said most employees in the Carle system are vaccinated.

OSF said its decision to require COVID-19 vaccination for its employees is consistent with its existing vaccination policies that require employees to get an annual flu shot and to stay current with other vaccinations against such diseases as measles, mumps, rubella and whooping cough.

OSF also said its decision is based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Exemptions will be made for OSF employees with religious objections or medical reasons, but they will need to be formally requested, documented and approved, according to OSF.

Any employee who doesn’t qualify for an exemption and declines to be vaccinated may be subject to disciplinary processes that could result in the loss of employment, OSF officials said.

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