Texas health organizations have a responsibility to promote vaccines

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By Octavio N. Martinez Jr.

The Texas Nurses Association recently joined more than 50 other medical advocacy organizations calling on healthcare facilities to demand that their employees be vaccinated against COVID-19. It is the only state-level organization to add its name to the statement, which includes signatures from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American Medical Association.

This brings up a disappointing reality: that more Texas health organizations have not been so outspoken, including the Texas Medical Association, the Texas Association of Obstetrics and Gynecologists, and the Texas Academy of Family Physicians. These are all wonderful organizations that have spoken openly on issues as diverse as reproductive health, reducing the number of uninsured people and increasing the mental health workforce.

But when it comes to the biggest public health emergency of our time, the politics around vaccination have become so difficult that it has now become commonplace, even for nurses and doctors to defy vaccination mandates. , propose anti-vaccination talking points and peddle quack treatments for COVID. -19. As a doctor, I find this unacceptable. As a concerned Texan, I know this bodes ill for our ability to come together and beat this pandemic as even our medical professionals prove sensitive to the anti-vaccination fervor that has gripped people’s minds throughout. the country.

The deadly results speak for themselves. About 50% of the population of Texas is fully vaccinated, which is still far below what experts believe is necessary for herd immunity. Meanwhile, hospital intensive care units continue to be near capacity, people continue to postpone necessary treatments due to the crash of COVID patients, and unvaccinated Texans continue to die. Healthcare workers who are still in the fight report increasing levels of frustration, burnout and deteriorating mental health. This is exacerbated by the moral wounds resulting from the making of life and death decisions and by the backlash of healthcare workers who were once hailed as heroes and who are now regularly mobbed by patients and media figures. like pawns in the medical-industrial complex.

I have already advocated for an approach to immunization that prioritizes equity and access. I have also argued that a narrow focus on vaccine reluctance is of no use when there is still much to be done to build community confidence on this issue. In fact, many Texans have made us proud when it comes to promoting access to vaccines. Every day we see ordinary people, who do not have the expertise of health professionals or the resources of large health care organizations, innovating in approaches to get more vaccines in more weapons. What does it say to them that there are healthcare workers who would give up rather than get vaccinated? What does he tell them that Joseph Mercola, a man who brags about the title of “doctor”, is one of the biggest and most influential purveyors of COVID pseudoscience?

It is true that some health organizations want to avoid sowing division in their ranks and courting the ire of politicians. Under normal circumstances, these would be compelling factors. But not now. What we need today are organizations ready to close ranks around science, sound public policy and their own humanitarian missions. Considering how this pandemic is unraveling communities and hurting bodies and minds, it’s not too much to ask professional associations to start asking their members to set the same example as many less privileged and less accredited Texans. .

Over the past month, the United States has taken a grim step: the number of people who have died from COVID-19 has surpassed the death toll from the 1918-19 influenza pandemic. In our state and elsewhere, political leaders have done worse than wash their hands of the problem by hampering mandates for masks and vaccines. We need leadership. The Texas Nurses Association is an example of what we need now. Other Texas health organizations must follow suit.

Martinez is the executive director of the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health at the University of Texas.


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