‘We want to be a leader’: Epic Systems to require all US-based employees to get vaccine by October

VERONA, Wis. — Epic Systems will require all of its staff based in the U.S. to get the COVID-19 vaccine by Oct. 1 this year, according to internal guidance on their employee website updated Friday for all employees.

“In recent weeks, we’ve seen an increase in COVID-19 infections across the country,” a statement in the release, provided by an Epic spokesperson to News 3 Now, read. “This increase has led to changed guidance from our public health authorities as recently as this afternoon, and there is understandable concern regarding safety.”

The privately-operated medical software company is one of Dane County’s largest employers with about 11,000 employees, of which about 10,000 are based in Dane County. Currently, almost 97% of the staff at the Verona campus have been vaccinated, according to the company’s internal guidance. This leaves just over 300 who will now be mandated to get the shot.

A big part of our role in healthcare is to set the standard and be a leader,” said Brett Rehm, who serves as Senior VP of Epic Technical Services. “We want to be a leader in the healthcare space to lean into the fact that the best thing to do is get vaccinated and make it clear to others that it’s the right thing to do.” 

Employees are currently in a phased return to office, with a requirement to be back in office at least four days a week starting in August. The company has been offering vaccine clinics to their employees since March, and provided additional clinic dates for employees to get their vaccine before October if they hadn’t already been vaccinated.

Wisconsin employers are legally able to require vaccines of their employees under federal law, although few so far have taken that step. Gov. Tony Evers vetoed Republican-authored legislation this year that would have banned employers from requiring the vaccine.

The guidance is clear from the CDC and other public health agencies that the best thing you can do is get vaccinated to keep your family, employees, people you work with, and people in the community safe,” Rehm said. “We take that very seriously.” 

Epic Systems is joining other major tech companies like Facebook, Google, Twitter and Netflix in requiring their employees to get vaccinated. Twitter has also paused office reopenings.

In Wisconsin, a few health care systems have started mandating employee vaccinations, including Children’s Wisconsin and the Medical College of Wisconsin. Multi-state health care systems with major Wisconsin presences, including SSM Health and Ascension Health, have also started requiring vaccines.

Last August, Epic Systems prompted national headlines and backlash from employees after initially requiring employees to return to work during the pandemic. The backlash resulted in a policy reversal that allowed employees to remain working from home at least through the end of 2020, a policy that stretched through the first several months of 2021.

Across the state, COVID-19 cases are back on the rise, with Friday recording its highest new case total of more than a 1,000–a new daily count the state has not seen since early April.

PHMDC, Rock County public health, and others are now strongly encouraging mask wearing by everyone in indoor public areas, regardless of vaccination status, to help combat the spread driven in large part by the highly-transmissible and more serious Delta variant.

Epic Systems is just weeks away from its annual User Group Meeting, canceled in 2020. The event, which brings in users from across the nation, will require all attendees to be vaccinated.