COVID Shots Should Be Mandatory for Health Care Workers Say Industry Bodies As Delta Spreads

Dozens of health care organizations and societies in the U.S. have released a joint statement Monday calling on health care and long-term care employers to make COVID vaccines mandatory for their staff, as Delta variant cases surge.

The 53 signatories of the statement include the American Medical Association, American College of Physicians, American Academy of Nursing (ANA), American Psychiatric Association and the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists.

The statement, which was shown first to The Washington Post, reads: "Due to the recent COVID-19 surge and the availability of safe and effective vaccines, our health care organizations and societies advocate that all health care and long-term care employers require their workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

"This is the logical fulfillment of the ethical commitment of all health care workers to put patients as well as residents of long-term care facilities first and take all steps necessary to ensure their health and well-being."

The statement comes as areas with low vaccination rates in the U.S. are being hit hard by COVID cases, with the more transmissible Delta variant making up about 83 percent of the country's cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

"Vaccination is the primary way to put the pandemic behind us and avoid the return of stringent public health measures," the statement said.

It goes on to note that "many" health care and long-term personnel are unvaccinated, without providing an exact figure. This is despite the fact that the CDC recommends this group be prioritized in the roll-out of vaccines, which have been administered in the country since December 2020. The different vaccines are awaiting FDA approval, but have been given an emergency-use authorization.

According to an analysis by WebMD and Medscape Medical News of the Department of Health and Human Services from 2,500 hospitals across the U.S. published late in June, one in four hospital workers who had direct contact with patients had not received a vaccine shot by May 31.

The joint statement went on: "As we move towards full FDA approval of the currently available vaccines, all health care workers should get vaccinated for their own health, and to protect their colleagues, families, residents of long-term care facilities and patients.

"This is especially necessary to protect those who are vulnerable, including unvaccinated children and the immunocompromised. Indeed, this is why many health care and long-term care organizations already require vaccinations for influenza, hepatitis B, and pertussis."

It acknowledged a "small minority" of workers could not be vaccinated because of identified medical reasons and should be exempted from a mandate.

The groups said they hoped other employers would follow their lead and implement effective policies to encourage vaccination.

"The health and safety of U.S. workers, families, communities, and the nation depends on it," the statement said.

ANA president Ernest J. Grant, a registered nurse, said in a statement: "The scientific rigor to swiftly develop effective COVID-19 vaccines and the monumental efforts to ensure all Americans get vaccinated is nothing short of amazing. Vaccination is both a significant public health victory and a scientifically proven strategy to slow the spread of COVID-19 and prevent the loss of more American lives.

"As the largest group of health care professionals, nurses are critical to all facets of COVID-19 response efforts and must strive to remain physically and psychologically safe to function optimally to care for themselves, their patients and their communities. Nurses must get vaccinated."

Grant went on to "applaud" nurses who have received their vaccines for "leading the charge and setting an example for their patients."

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A stock image shows a health care worker giving a vaccine to a colleague. Health care organizations and societies in the U.S. have called on health care and long-term care employers to make COVID vaccines mandatory for their staff. Getty Images