As the number of Covid-19 cases surges in the United States, more than 50 health and medical groups – including the American Medical Association, the American College of Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Public Health Association – issued a joint statement calling for all health care and long-term care employers to mandate employees be vaccinated against Covid-19.
“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,” they wrote in the joint statement issued Monday.
“Because of highly contagious variants, including the Delta variant, and significant numbers of unvaccinated people, COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths are once again rising throughout the United States. Vaccination is the primary way to put the pandemic behind us and avoid the return of stringent public health measures,” the statement added.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday the White House supports the medical associations’ call to mandate vaccines for all US health personnel.
“These actions, in our view, are meant to keep patients and employees safe and in fact, I expect our own federal health care providers may look at similar requirements as they do with other vaccines,” she said.
The Department of Veterans Affairs announced on Monday it will require many of its frontline health workers to be vaccinated, making it the first area of the federal government to require shots among some of its workers.
Other organizations have made moves toward mandates, too. On Wednesday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that employees of all public hospitals and health clinics will be required to get vaccinated or take weekly Covid-19 tests.
While overall rates of vaccination among health care workers are higher than in the general population, the organizers of the letter say that 25% of hospital workers have still not been vaccinated.
According to the American Medical Association, 96% of US physicians surveyed in early June said they were fully vaccinated, but the level falls significantly when considering other types of health care workers. The latest numbers from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services finds that as of July 11, just 58% of all nursing home staff are considered to be fully vaccinated.
A person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after the second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccine or two weeks after a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
“Health care workers have an ethical duty to put patients’ health and well-being first, and getting vaccinated for COVID-19 is integral to that duty,” Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, vice provost for global initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania and organizer of the statement, said in Monday’s announcement. “Employer vaccine mandates are effective and lifesaving, and they are especially appropriate in health care and long-term care settings. No patient should have to worry that they could become infected by one of their care providers, and no provider should put their patient at risk.”
The American Nurses Association also signed the joint statement, with ANA President Ernest Grant saying “Nurses must get vaccinated.”
“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,” Grant said in a statement.
Former US Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams said Sunday that mandates will be “the quickest way to get people vaccinated,” but that won’t happen more broadly until the vaccines have received full approval from the US Food and Drug Administration. Trials and real-world data show the Covid-19 vaccines are safe and effective, but they are currently available through FDA emergency use authorization.
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“We can’t have mass mandates, we won’t – you’re hearing this from the military and from other businesses – until you have full licensure of these vaccines,” Adams said on CBS on Sunday. “So if you want to get a bunch of people vaccinated really quickly, get these vaccines licensed, and then you’ll see the military make it mandatory, you’ll see businesses make it mandatory.”
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 49.1% of the US population is fully vaccinated, but vaccination rates have slowed for months. Eleven states have yet to vaccinate at least 40% of their residents: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, West Virginia and Wyoming.
The United States is now averaging nearly 52,000 new Covid-19 cases each day, according to Johns Hopkins University a 61% increase over last week’s 7-day average. All states except for Colorado reported an increase in cases this past week.
According to the data from the US Department of Health and Human services, hospitalizations have been increasing for about three weeks, rising about 37% over the past week.
CNN’s Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.