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Vaccine mandate changes at St. Luke's University Health Network

Workers who caught COVID-19 within the last year don't need to roll up their sleeves just yet.

MONROE COUNTY, Pa. — Health care workers were some of the first to get the COVID-19 vaccine when doses rolled out in the winter.

By summer, and as COVID cases continue to rise, health care networks across the country required their employees to get vaccinated against the virus. That includes St. Luke's University Health Network. There's a campus in Monroe County.

Now, this network has decided to change its mandate.

"Some of the evidence that came out recently from an Israeli study, as well as our own observation, is that if you have had a natural infection, we are talking about that this can be verified by a PCR that it appears that the kind of immunity that you develop is either equal or superior to that than someone who might get two doses of an mRNA vaccine such as Pfizer or Moderna," said Dr. Jeffrey Jahre, St. Luke's University Health Network.

Under St. Luke's new policy, workers who had COVID-19 and recovered can delay their shots for up to 12 months from the date they tested positive.

Proof of a positive test within the last year will be required for exemption.

Dr. Jahre says he's still encouraging workers to get the shot to maximize protection, and he's certainly not suggesting going out and catching COVID instead of getting vaccinated.

"The important thing for everyone to know is to please get the vaccine. Don't rely on natural infection," said Dr. Jahre.

In addition to St. Luke's, Lehigh Valley Health Network has also decided to update its policy.