Hospital has responsibility to protect public

Editor’s note: In the following article, CHI St. Joseph’s Health responds to claims and misinformation published in the Sept. 4 article entitled “Nurses speak out about CHI vaccine mandate.”

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One hundred percent of CHI St. Joseph's physicians are vaccinated. Dr. Lageson, seen here, is the medical chief of staff.
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A shortage of nurses

“The nursing shortage across the country is very real. We have a great staff and we do not want to lose any of our employees, but we understand there will be some employees who choose to leave St. Joseph’s in response to the COVID-19 vaccine requirement as a condition of employment,” said Ben Koppelman, CHI St. Joseph’s Health president. “CHI St. Joseph's Health will continue to recruit the very best to work with our dedicated team to take exceptional care of our patients. We are proud of the care we provide to our community and will continue to work hard to navigate through this pandemic safely.”

‘Mom in labor with no CNA’

Koppelman says, “CHI St. Joseph’s Health staffs each care unit with the appropriate number of employees to care for patients in the hospital. Our patient census changes daily, but staffing adjustments are made to ensure quality care is delivered to all our patients. Safety is our top priority.”

The vaccine during pregnancy and ‘spontaneous abortions’

According to the CDC, COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for all people 12 years and older, including people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, trying to get pregnant now or might become pregnant in the future.


Evidence about the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy has been growing. This data suggests that the benefits of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine outweigh any known or potential risks of vaccination during pregnancy.

There is currently no evidence that any vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, cause fertility problems in women or men.

The statement of 80% chance of spontaneous abortion is false.

Current data from the V-Safe pregnancy registry assessed vaccination early in pregnancy and did not find an increased risk of miscarriage among nearly 2,500 pregnant women who received an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine before 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Miscarriage typically occurs in about 11-16% of pregnancies, and this study found miscarriage rates after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine were around 13%, similar to the expected rate of miscarriage in the general population.

Previously, data from three safety monitoring systems (VAERS, V-Safe COVID-19 vaccine pregnancy registry, and the Vaccine Safety Data Link) did not find any safety concerns for pregnant people who were vaccinated late in pregnancy or for their babies.

Combined, these data and the known severe risks of COVID-19 during pregnancy demonstrate that the benefits of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine for pregnant people outweigh any known or potential risks.

Pregnant and recently pregnant people are more likely to get severely ill with COVID-19 compared with non-pregnant people. Getting a COVID-19 vaccine can provide protection from severe illness from COVID-19. Also, the vaccine does not contain any virus, so it cannot give you COVID-19 and it cannot change your DNA in any way.


‘Aborted fetal cells in the vaccine’

The mRNA COVID-19 vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna do not use fetal cell cultures in order to manufacture the vaccine.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and a pro-life policy organization have found the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to be ethically uncontroversial.

Exemptions process

All COVID-19 vaccine exemptions filed for CHI St. Joseph’s Health employees are being reviewed through a process established by CommonSpirit Health, our parent company. This process utilizes medical and ethics/mission team members from across all our facilities as expert reviewers. These teams review each exemption without the employee's name or location. This assures the process is fair across our large system.

‘They’re just hoping we cave in and do it’

This is a false statement. Hospital administration held an open forum for anyone who wanted to attend. This forum offered an advisory panel of CHI St. Joseph’s Health leadership: Ben Koppelman, president; Deb Haagenson, vice president of patient care; Marlee Morrison, community health director and Dr. John Lageson, medical chief of staff.

This panel was available to help answer any questions and concerns that staff had about the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Vaccination is the most effective and successful way to protect against COVID-19 and slow the spread. While no vaccine is perfect, vaccinated people are substantially less likely to be infected, have severe disease and die from COVID-19. Vaccines are effective and do work,” said Lageson.

The primary reason for requiring the COVID-19 vaccine is safety. The highly infectious Delta variant now accounts for the vast majority of all COVID-19 cases in the U.S.
So far, hundreds of other hospitals and health systems across the country have made the decision to require COVID-19 vaccination for their employees, and more are adopting similar policies every day.

At CHI St. Joseph’s Health, 100% of our physicians are vaccinated.


We know that many people have strong feelings about a vaccine requirement, but we have a responsibility to protect our patients and the community. We have taken every available precaution to help protect the health and safety of our staff and patients throughout the pandemic and we feel that this is an important next step.

St. Joseph’s has been a trusted source of care for nearly 75 years and improving the health of the people we serve, especially those who are most vulnerable. We take this responsibility very seriously and see it as both a privilege and our mission.

Lorie Skarpness has lived in the Park Rapids area since 1997 and has been writing for the Park Rapids Enterprise since 2017. She enjoys writing features about the people and wildlife who call the north woods home.
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