LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Healthcare workers are on the frontlines every day fighting COVID-19 but many in Arkansas are not vaccinated.
"We do not have a vaccine mandate," said Dr. Robert Hopkins, Professor of Internal Medicine and Pediatrics University of Arkansas for Medical and Science. "We are currently not allowed to have a vaccine mandate because of a law passed by our legislature in April."
The law prohibits state-owned hospitals, nursing homes and healthcare facilities from mandating the vaccine. But private health systems can require the shot.
Mercy, a Missouri-based health system with hospitals in Rogers and Fort Smith, had made the vaccine a requirement for employees.
Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville may be moving in the same direction.
"They have the legal right to do that, yes," Gov. Asa Hutchinson said. "And actually, any business can. It's privately owned, and not government-controlled."
In Little Rock, 87% of UAMS employees are vaccinated, a number some employees are not comfortable with.
"I think it should be incumbent among all of us, as healthcare providers, to be vaccinated to protect ourselves, to protect our families and to protect our patients," said Hopkins. "I think it's important for us to talk with the same things that we do. We have to walk the walk and talk the talk."
Hopkins said there is plenty of medical research supporting the success of this vaccine, so there's really no excuse not to get it.
Leadership at Arkansas Heart Hospital and Arkansas Children's Hospital announced Friday new employees will be required to get the COVID-19 vaccine.