Two of Alaska’s largest employers institute COVID vaccine requirement

A beige office building
The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium on June 30, 2021. (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)

Two of Alaska’s largest employers will require all staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by October 15. 

Southcentral Foundation, and its sister organization, the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium emailed the announcement to staff Thursday afternoon. Together, they employ more than 5,000 people.

The message to Southcentral Foundation employees said that as a healthcare organization, a vaccine requirement will help workers deliver “the highest level of care and safety” to patients. 

All employees will be required to be vaccinated, except for rare cases when an employee has a medical excuse. Several other large Alaska Native organizations also have vaccine requirements, including the Norton Sound Health Corporation and the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium.

Vaccine requirements are considered a legal gray area. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it’s up to states to set laws. 

RELATED: Alaska executives, employers wrestle with whether to mandate, incentivize or encourage COVID-19 shots

Lawyers say it will likely be decided in the courts. In June, a federal court in Texas sided with a hospital requiring employees to be vaccinated. That prompted a growing number of hospitals nationwide to start requiring COVID-19 vaccines.

In April, three Alaska legislators introduced a bill to ban employee vaccination requirements, but it wasn’t considered during the legislative session. 

Providence Hospital, Alaska’s largest hospital, said in a written statement that it doesn’t have a vaccine requirement but is “strongly encouraging all our staff” to get vaccinated.

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Lex Treinen covers culture, homelessness, politics and corrections for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at ltreinen@alaskapublic.org.