A group of nearly 60 major medical organizations, including the American Medical Association and the American Nurses Association, called for mandatory vaccination of health workers on Monday. With the highly contagious Delta variant causing a new surge in coronavirus cases, vaccination is an ethical obligation for health care workers, the groups said in a joint statement.
“With the recent surge in Covid-19 and the availability of safe and effective vaccines, our health organizations and societies are advocating that all healthcare and long-term care employers require their employees to receive the Covid-19 vaccine,” said it in the statement. “This is the logical fulfillment of the ethical obligation of all healthcare workers to put patients and residents of long-term care facilities first and to take all necessary steps to ensure their health and well-being.”
The declaration was signed by a wide variety of professional associations, including representatives of doctors, nurses, pharmacists and infectious disease experts.
In recent weeks, more and more hospitals and health systems have announced that all employees must be vaccinated against the coronavirus. The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has stated that the mandates are legal and many hospitals already require their employees to get flu vaccinations.
“Health organizations rarely agree, but here they speak with one voice and unanimity,” said Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, oncologist and bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania, who organized the joint declaration. “I think that shows the widespread recognition that this is the right thing for this country.”
Although many healthcare workers have been eligible for vaccination since December when the first vaccinations were approved, a significant number remain unvaccinated. In New York, for example, about one in four hospital employees has not yet been vaccinated, according to state data. Only 58.7 percent of nursing home workers nationwide are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Some healthcare workers have spoken out against vaccine requirements. A small group of employees sued the Houston Methodist Hospital over his mandate. The lawsuit was dismissed last month and more than 150 hospital employees were fired or quit for refusing to be vaccinated.
Some employers have been reluctant to request the vaccines, which are currently under emergency approval, until they have received full approval from the Food and Drug Administration. This approval is expected but could take months.
Dr. Emanuel said some hospitals and health organizations used the lack of full approval as an excuse to postpone vaccine mandates. The joint statement stated that the Covid-19 vaccines were shown to be safe and effective.
“With more than 300 million doses administered in the United States and nearly 4 billion doses administered worldwide, we know the vaccines are safe and highly effective in preventing serious illness and death from Covid-19,” said Dr. Susan R. Bailey, the immediate past president of the AMA, said in a statement.
The joint statement said that exceptions could be made for the small subgroup of workers who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons.