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 driving a new surge in coronavirus cases, vaccination is an ethical obligation for health workers, the groups said in a joint statement.
The statement said that all healthcare and long-term care employers should require their employees to receive the Covid-19 vaccine. "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 statement said.
The document has been signed by a wide variety of professional associations, including representatives of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and infectious disease experts. Exceptions could be made for the small subgroup of workers who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons.
In the past few weeks, more and more hospitals and health systems have announced that they will start vaccinating their employees. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has stated that the mandates are legal and that many hospitals are already requiring their employees to get a flu shot.
"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 health care 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. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 58.7 percent of nursing home workers nationwide are fully vaccinated.
Some healthcare workers have opposed the compulsory vaccination. 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 subject to emergency approval, until they have received full approval from the Food and Drug Administration. This approval is expected but could take months.
However, the joint statement noted that the Covid-19 vaccines have had a good track record so far. "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 A.M.A., in a statement.