ROGERS, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Mercy Hospital staff will be required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, effective September 30, hospital administrators announced on Wednesday.

The move comes as the delta variant of the virus continues to spread rapidly, resulting in an increase in hospitalizations at Mercy hospitals in Fort Smith and Rogers.

Mercy officials say the situation is even more serious in Missouri, where it operates hospitals and clinics in Joplin, Springfield, St. Louis and other locations.

The hospital has reported that the majority of its recently hospitalized patients are unvaccinated.

“What we are seeing aligns with the Associated Press analysis of CDC data,” Dr. John Mohart, Mercy’s senior vice president of clinical services, said. “More than 95 percent of recent hospitalizations across the U.S. are people who aren’t vaccinated. The data is clear. Vaccination is key to saving lives.”  

According to a release, the vaccine will be required for co-workers and others who serve and work in Mercy facilities. The hospital says it’s joining dozens of health care organizations across the United States in recognizing the importance of the vaccine in ending the pandemic.

“It is essential that we take these steps in order to protect the health of our co-workers and our patients at Mercy,” Dr. William Sistrunk, Mercy infectious disease specialist, said. “As health care leaders in our communities, it is important we set the standard to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Vaccination is our best defense against the virus and already has provided many of our co-workers with the protection they need to care for our patients. Our goal is to ensure the safest possible work environment for our co-workers and patients while also being a part of the effort to stop the spread of the virus in the communities we serve.”   

Mercy officials said they will work with employees to develop a plan for compliance ahead of the scheduled September 30 deadline.