More than 50 medical groups push healthcare employers to require COVID-19 vaccination

Dozens of healthcare professional organizations including the American Hospital Association, America's Essential Hospitals and the Association of American Medical Colleges have released joint or individual statements calling for providers to implement mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policies for healthcare personnel.

The latest show of support comes in the form of a joint statement signed by 57 professional groups representing hospitals, clinicians, nurses, long-term care facilities, infectious disease specialists, pharmacists and others working in healthcare. 

"Due to the recent COVID-19 surge and the availability of safe and effective vaccines, our healthcare organizations and societies advocate that all healthcare and long-term care employers require their workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine," the groups wrote on July 26. "This is the logical fulfillment of the ethical commitment of all healthcare 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."

Notably, the joint statement recognized the impact "historical mistrust of healthcare institutions" has had on vaccine acceptance and acknowledged that many in the healthcare workforce share that apprehension.

"We must continue to address workers’ concerns, engage with marginalized populations and work with trusted messengers to improve vaccine acceptance," the groups wrote.

RELATED: 40 health systems requiring mandatory COVID-19 vaccines for their workforces

The unified front follows a handful of individual statements from the leading industry groups and those working in specific medical disciplines.

Across the board, each of these prior statements highlighted the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and pointed to the health benefits vaccination has to offer for patients and staff alike.

"COVID-19 vaccines protect healthcare personnel when working both in healthcare facilities and in the community," the AHA wrote in an individual policy statement published July 21. "They provide strong protection against workers unintentionally carrying the disease to work and spreading it to patients and peers."

AHA encouraged providers implementing these policies to provide medical exemptions and other accommodations consistent with equal employment guidelines, follow relevant Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and FDA guidelines regarding vaccination eligibility, remain in line with local laws and offer staff scheduling flexibility or time off to receive and recover from the shots. 

RELATED: UPDATED Coronavirus tracker: Banner Health unveils $10,000 prize drawings for fully vaccinated employees

In another July 21 statement, AEH President and CEO Bruce Siegel, M.D., called for the organization's 300-plus member hospitals to begin mandating COVID-19 vaccines for their employees. 

Daily cases in the U.S. have increased more than 70% over the previous seven-day average and vaccination inequities are at their most severe among the underserved, he said. Requiring the vaccines among safety-net providers not only sets an example for their communities but supports the health of these at-risk patient populations, he said.

"Essential hospitals are vital to the country’s fight against COVID-19," Siegel said in the statement. "With policies to keep their employees healthy, our hospitals can remain on the front lines of the pandemic and continue serving communities throughout the public health emergency and beyond. We urge all our hospitals to take quick action, consistent with federal and state guidance and laws, to require vaccination for their employees."

In a July 16 statement, AAMC President and CEO David J. Skorton, M.D., said that the organization is now urging its member institutions—all 172 accredited U.S. and Canadian medical schools, over 400 teaching hospitals and more than 70 academic societies—to adopt these policies among their workforces.

“We are aware of the sensitive nature of this recommendation and understand that it must be made on an institution-by-institution basis, subject to legally required exceptions and consistent with state law,” Skorton said in the statement. “However, for the safety of our patients, communities, health care personnel, faculty and students, we encourage our members to require vaccinations for employees while working with local public health officials as appropriate.”

Skorton also stressed that vaccinating staff helps prevent additional cases among those seeking care while protecting healthcare personnel and their families from the potentially deadly illness.

RELATED: National Nurses United calls on CDC to reinstate masking policies after COVID-19 case spike

“We did not come to this recommendation lightly, but instead considered the large and convincing body of evidence on the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines that led the [FDA] to grant emergency use authorizations (EUAs),” he said.

“The strength of this data collected prior to the EUAs, along with confirmation of the vaccines’ effectiveness in the real world in countries around the world, supports this recommendation. Additionally, while their development may seem unusually quick, these vaccines are the products of over two decades of fundamental research and an unprecedented public-private effort that resulted in the creation of several SARS-CoV-2 vaccines at a breathtaking pace,” he said.

Each of these positions came quickly in the wake of a July 13 consensus statement from seven infectious disease, epidemiology and long-term care professional organizations that similarly called for COVID-19 vaccination as a mandatory condition for employment among all healthcare personnel.

In addition to highlighting the observed safety of the COVID-19 vaccines, the groups’ position paper outlined the historical impact flu shot policies have had on the vaccination rates of hospital employees and broke down a slew of clinical, legal, privacy and safety considerations for stakeholders looking to adopt a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy.

RELATED: U.S. vaccine rollout prevented up to 1.25M hospitalizations, 279K additional deaths, study finds

The push for mandatory vaccination reflects the policy decisions of numerous hospitals and health systems.

Houston Methodist, Henry Ford Health System and Trinity Health are among the dozens of providers that have unveiled mandatory vaccination policies during the summer, stoking the ire of unvaccinated employees who say that these requirements infringe on their personal freedoms.

Banner Health, among the latest to impose a COVID-19 vaccine requirement, lessened the blow by launching a $10,000 lottery for 10 fully vaccinated members of its 52,000-strong workforce.

Other organizations like Mass General Brigham have chosen to be a bit more conservative, announcing that their requirement for employee COVID-19 vaccines will only take effect once the shots have been granted full approval by the FDA.