Major health groups call for COVID-19 vaccine mandates for health care workers

The mandate would apply to 17 million health workers if implemented, according to the American College of Physicians

Health care professionals from over 50 organizations representing millions of workers called for mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations among all health care and long-term care employees Monday as infections climb nationwide due to the highly transmissible delta variant.

Unvaccinated health care workers put vulnerable patients at risk of infection, like unvaccinated kids, older adults and those with weakened immune systems, the joint statement reads, citing already required vaccinations for the flu, hepatitis B and pertussis.

Groups like the American Medical Association, American Nurses Association, American Academy of Pediatrics and Association of American Medical Colleges signed off on the endorsement, said to "protect the safety of patients and residents of long-term care facilities and make the health care sector a leader in COVID-19 vaccination just as cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are once again rising throughout the United States."

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However the mandate should exclude "a small minority" of workers who can’t receive a vaccine due to medical reasons, the statement reads.

"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," said Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, vice provost for global initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania, who organized the statement in a release posted Monday. "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."

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Health care workers were prioritized to receive COVID-19 vaccinations following the shots' emergency approvals last December, and federal data indicated a dramatic decline in infections among health care personnel by early February 2021. Over 500,000 infections and 1,661 virus-related deaths have occurred among health care personnel, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

However, one in four health workers had yet to receive a vaccine by the end of May, according to the American College of Physicians, which notes "If implemented, this mandate would cover 17 million health care workers."

The statement comes after the highly transmissible delta variant was said to account for over 83% of infections nationwide. Nearly 70% of adults have received at least one dose and 60% are fully vaccinated.