Almost 2,200 Kaiser Permanente Health Care Employees Suspended for Refusing Vaccine

Health care conglomerate Kaiser Permanente, one of the nation's largest health care consortiums, has suspended nearly 2,200 of its employees that have refused to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, the company announced Tuesday.

"Kaiser Permanente has an obligation to our 550,000 members and patients in Colorado, 12.5 million members across the U.S., and to our employees, physicians and communities to ensure their safety and to protect them from infection," the company said in a press release.

Kaiser Permanente first announced a COVID-19 vaccine mandate on August 2, at which time the company reported that their vaccination rate was around 78 percent.

"Since [August 2], we have made remarkable progress," the statement continued. "More than 92% of our employees nationwide have been vaccinated—and the number continues to grow. As of October 4, just over 2,200 have not responded to our vaccine requirement, and have been put on unpaid administrative leave across the country. This number is declining daily, and as employees respond they may return to work. Those not responding have until December 1, 2021 to do so, to be able to return to work."

In addition to the company's direct employees, Kaiser Permanente also said third-party workers, such as vendors, contractors, and suppliers, will also need to show proof of vaccination in order to enter one of their facilities. The company estimated that the number of these suppliers was around 40,000.

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A view of the Kaiser Permanente Hollywood Medial Office in Hollywood, California, one of just many locations where employees will be required to be vaccinated in order to return to work. AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/Getty

Kaiser Permanente is headquartered in Oakland, California and operates in eight different states as well as Washington, D.C. This includes California and Georgia, two states which have the first and sixth-highest number of total COVID cases in the nation, respectively. The company's choice to suspend unvaccinated workers is part of a nationwide campaign to lower new cases of the coronavirus.

Additional steps being taken by the health care conglomerate include pushing those 40,000 suppliers to adopt their own vaccine mandates, as well as "encouraging more than 2,000 community organizations that Kaiser Permanente supports through grants and program funding to mandate vaccinations." These include grants that, per the company's website, "forge meaningful partnerships with local nonprofits, public agencies, like-minded foundations, and other institutions as we strive to achieve the greatest possible impact on health."

This move is just the latest in a series of pressured moves by health care companies to get their employees vaccinated. On Monday, Reuters reported that Northwell Health, the largest health care provider in New York, had fired 1,400 of its employees that refused to get vaccinated. The group, however, was only a small portion of Northwell's 76,000 employees, according to their spokesperson.

This comes amidst new federal guidelines imposed in September by President Joe Biden. These mandates state that American employers and businesses with more than 100 workers must all be vaccinated or take a weekly COVID-19 test.

Newsweek has reached out to Kaiser Permanente for comment.

Correction (10/5/2021, 8:00 p.m.): This article and headline originally reported that nearly 5,000 employees were put on hiatus. Kaiser Permanente told Newsweek that the actual number is 2,200.