An individual receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. 

ST. LOUIS (AP) — St. Louis Public Schools will require COVID-19 vaccinations for employees, giving them until Oct. 15 to be fully vaccinated.

The school board in Missouri’s second-largest city voted unanimously Tuesday to adopt the mandatory vaccination policy amid a growing number of cases and hospitalizations. The policy allows for medical and religious exemptions.

Superintendent Kelvin Adams said the district believes the policy “is the best way to protect students.”

The requirement applies to school volunteers as well as vendors in transportation, food services and special education.

The district has about 3,400 employees, making it one of the largest employers in St. Louis.

Missouri on Wednesday reported 1,668 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases, and 21 new deaths. The state has reported 619,920 cases and 10,397 deaths since the onset of the pandemic. Hospitalizations reported Wednesday rose by 97 to 2,268.