The American Medical Association and dozens of medical groups on Monday called for the mandatory COVID-19 vaccination of health workers in the U.S.
“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 medical organizations said in an open letter.
The American Nursing Association, American Psychiatric Association and others said the fast-moving delta variant is putting unvaccinated children and immunocompromised people at risk, demanding more urgent measures.
They said many health care facilities require immunization for influenza, hepatitis B and pertussis to protect the vulnerable.
“Vaccination is the primary way to put the pandemic behind us and avoid the return of stringent public health measures,” the letter said. “Unfortunately, many health care and long-term care personnel remain unvaccinated. As we move towards full [Food and Drug Administration] 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.”
The push is part of a get-tough pivot as vaccination rates stall out. Less than half — 49% — of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated despite the shots being free and plentiful.
The Biden administration has avoided talk of government mandates but given tacit approval to schools and employers that want to require the shots, while New York Mayor Bill de Blasio made an explicit call Friday for city employers to require vaccination.
Overseas, French lawmakers passed a law that requires health workers to get vaccinated and requires a “health pass” — proof of vaccination or a negative test — to gain entry into certain venues.
Some U.S. municipalities and organizations may be waiting for the FDA to grant a full biologics license to the vaccine makers so they are on firmer legal ground if workers challenge mandates.
The AMA and other signers said they realize some employees have longstanding mistrust of the health system. They said employers should address their concerns.
Also, “while we recognize some workers cannot be vaccinated because of identified medical reasons and should be exempted from a mandate, they constitute a small minority of all workers,” the letter said. “Employers should consider any applicable state laws on a case-by-case basis.”