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East Tenn. hospitals requiring vaccines for workers, discuss longer symptoms of COVID-19

Some teens are dealing with fatigue, headaches and intestinal distress.
With the Omicron variant continuing to surge, doctors said it’s important for people to get vaccinated if they can.
Published: Jan. 17, 2022 at 9:20 PM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - East Tennessee hospitals will require vaccinations or an exemption from the vaccine after the Supreme Court ruled a vaccine mandate for health care workers could stay in place.

The CEO at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital, Matt Schaefer, said it must comply with the Center for Medicare and Medicaid’s rule because some of the 330,000 patients it serves use Medicaid.

“60% of those are covered by the state Medicaid program so the rules that the Medicaid program that CMS gives us are the rules we have to live by to make sure we serve the mission that we serve,” Schaefer said.

Schaefer said 91% of its health care workers are vaccinated and the hospital system is working to get everyone else either vaccinated or an exemption. The goal for Schaefer is to make sure all of their current employees continue working for the hospital.

“At the end of this, the key dates so that no employee and no team member has to face not having a role at Children’s Hospital because of CMS’s rule,” Schaefer said.

“It’s a concerning thing, but will our mission continue? Absolutely it will. But for anyone of those team members and any one of those health care heroes to have to face that decision. I’m concerned about them.”

Tennova Health sent WVLT News a statement about the mandate:

Vaccination has been demonstrated as effective protection because people are less likely to be hospitalized or die if they have been earlier vaccinated. All unvaccinated employees will be expected to receive the first dose of the vaccine by January 27th, or submit and receive an approved medical or religious exemption in order to comply with the CMS vaccine mandate. The majority of our caregivers already have chosen to be vaccinated and more are making that choice now. We appreciate the cooperation of our team during what has been a challenging time for everyone in healthcare.

As of Monday, Covenant Health and UT Medical did not provide a statement.

With the Omicron variant continuing to surge, doctors said it’s important for people to get vaccinated if they can.

Chief Medical Officer at ETCH Dr. Joe Childs said people don’t want to encounter this virus and some are even having lingering effects long after two weeks.

“It’s occurring more in teenagers and it seems to be a combination of the virus and just the stress we’re under during this pandemic,” Childs said.

He also said common lingering symptoms children and teens are seeing are headaches, intestinal distress and fatigue.

“They just don’t feel right and as energetic as they were before they had it and it just seems to linger beyond the typical two to three weeks that you typically have to recover from a virus like this,” Childs said.

If families are concerned their children may have lingering symptoms of COVID-19, they should be checked by a physician.

Childs said a physician will likely check for any abnormalities in the heart, lungs and kidneys.

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