KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Several Knoxville-area hospitals will require all health care workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 after the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a COVID-19 vaccination mandate.

Blount Memorial Hospital, Covenant Health, East Tennessee Children’s Hospital, Sweetwater Hospital Association and The University of Tennessee Medical Center are planning to comply with the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

Clinical, non-clinical and medical staff, as well as students, volunteers, contracted employees and vendors are required to have initiated the first dose of the primary COVID-19 vaccine series or received a single dose of the one-dose vaccine by December 5, 2021, unless they qualify and are approved for a religious or medical exemption to the vaccine.

The two-dose series to be fully vaccinated must be completed by January 4, 2022.

“CMS is very clear that non-compliance with this mandate will result in severe penalties to hospitals, up to and including exclusion from participation in Medicare,” a joint release from the local hospitals stated.

The release states that while they have faced staffing challenges during the pandemic, team members must be in compliance with the requirement, in order to continue working at their facilities. They add that the majority of their employees are already fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Covenant Health hospitals consist of Claiborne Medical Center, Cumberland Medical Center, Fort Loudoun Medical Center, Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center, LeConte Medical Center, Methodist Medical Center of Oak Ridge, Morristown-Hamblen Healthcare System, Parkwest Medical Center and the Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center.

This is a developing story. Download the WATE 6 News app for updates sent to your phone.