Spectrum Health has become the first major hospital system in Michigan to allow employees with natural immunity to be temporarily exempted from the vaccine mandate.

In July, Spectrum Health announced requiring the COVID-19 vaccine within eight weeks after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officially approved a vaccine.

In a statement last week, Spectrum Health said that it would grant the exemption to those who have a positive PCR or antigen test for COVID-19 plus a positive antibody test from within the past three months, the Detroit News reported.

The west Michigan health system granted the exemption after new research emerged on natural immunity.

“While we still recommend vaccination for people with prior COVID-19 infection, according to this new research, there is increasing evidence that natural infection affords protection from COVID-19 reinfection and severe symptoms for a period of time,” Spectrum Health said in the statement.

“Current studies are not clear on how long natural immunity protects from reinfection,” it added.

The health system said it would update the policy in the future if there is evidence showing naturally acquired protection is waning or longer-lasting or if there is a validated antibody test result showing immunity.

In its statement, Spectrum said that those exemptions include religious exemptions and medical exemptions determined by a medical exemption committee. 

The system’s medical exemption committee recommended a temporary exemption for individuals who can prove they have naturally acquired immunity to COVID-19 based on available research.

In Detroit, some other hospital systems, such as Henry Ford Health System, Beaumont Health, and Trinity Heath Michigan, have mandated COVID-19 vaccine for their employees with no exemptions.

According to the Detroit News, Spectrum Health is in the process of merging with Beaumont Health. The two health systems have signed a formal integration agreement earlier this month and expect to launch a new system this fall.

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