Why COVID-19 vaccination should be mandatory for healthcare professionals
Employers across the country weigh the pros and cons of vaccination warrants as employees return to the office. Some see these mandates as an occupational health strategy, allowing medical and non-medical exemptions. For hospitals and health systems, immunization is particularly critical from a public health perspective.
âDo no harm is a fundamental ethic for all those who care for the sick and injured. I think physicians and quite frankly everyone who works in the healthcare system have a fundamental obligation to patients by getting vaccinated against preventable diseases such as COVID 19, âsaid Audiey Kao, MD, PhD, vice -President of ethics of WADA. Dr Kao discussed the ethical considerations of vaccination mandates for healthcare workers in an episode of the “AMA COVID-19 Update” that was released last week.
COVID-19 vaccines have prevented nearly 280,000 deaths and 1.25 million hospitalizations in the United States, according to estimates by researchers at the Yale School of Public Health. If and when hospitals and health systems choose to impose vaccination against COVID-19, Dr Kao believes they will have a strong ethical and legal basis to do so.
Given the lag between the increase in COVID-19 cases and the increase in hospitalizations, “Doctors and healthcare employers must act urgently to address concerns and encourage vaccinations among staff members. health care providers that are not vaccinated, âsaid Dr. Kao.
Yesterday, WADA and nearly 60 other organizations representing doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals signed a joint letter calling on all healthcare and long-term care employers to demand that their employees are vaccinated against COVID-19.
âIt is essential that all healthcare workers be vaccinated against COVID-19 for the safety of our patients and colleagues,â said Susan R. Bailey, MD, past president of WADA. âWith over 300 million doses administered in the United States and nearly 4 billion doses administered worldwide, we know that vaccines are safe and highly effective in preventing serious illness and death from COVID-19.
“Increasing vaccinations among healthcare workers will not only reduce the spread of COVID-19, but will also reduce the harmful toll this virus takes on healthcare workers and those we strive to serve,” added Dr. Bailey.
The AMA, the American Hospital Association and the American Nurses Association have repeatedly called on healthcare professionals to be vaccinated against COVID-19. So far, the reception among doctors has been robust: a recent WADA survey found that more than 96% of doctors said they had received the vaccine.
âIt is good to see that the vast majority of my colleagues are setting an important example and putting into practice what we have preached,â said Dr Kao.
The ethics policy adopted at the WADA special meeting in November 2020 states that physicians have an ethical duty to be vaccinated against a pandemic when a safe and effective vaccine becomes available and there is no no medical contraindications.
Vaccination mandates are not new to healthcare facilities, but the healthcare industry has seen its fair share of legal challenges against these requirements, and the COVID-19 vaccine is no exception.
Dr Kao mentioned a high-profile lawsuit in Texas in which 100 hospital workers demanded unfair dismissal for being placed on unpaid leave for refusing a hospital-provided vaccination. A federal judge recently ruled in favor of the hospital, noting that “if the hospital workers did not want to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, they were free to work elsewhere,” said Dr Kao.
Meanwhile, at least six have enacted new laws limiting mandatory COVID-19 injections.
âFortunately, many of these states have not prohibited employers from requiring workers to be vaccinated, but have made an exception for health and public health workers,â noted Dr. Kao. “These new laws, however, only further help politicize a public health emergency that shouldn’t be a red-to-blue or left-to-right issue.”
The three vaccines now available in the United States, those manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, have received emergency use clearance from the FDA. These vaccines have demonstrated strong and real efficacy and safety data, said Dr Kao.
âWe have administered COVID vaccines to nearly 70% of the American adult population. Safety and efficacy hold up well, even against the variants that have emerged, âhe said.
The FDA is expected to grant full approval to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in the coming weeks and months. Having this full approval “should help get some people who are currently on the fence vaccinated,” Dr Kao said.
As individual facilities assess their options, doctors and health systems should continue to send the message that COVID-19 vaccines save lives, advised Dr Kao.
âCan you imagine where we would be in this country if we didn’t have safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines? ” he said.