Infectious disease organizations call for mandatory COVID-19 vaccination among all healthcare personnel

Seven professional organizations for infectious disease, epidemiology and long-term care professionals have released a consensus statement recommending that COVID-19 vaccination be a condition for employment for all healthcare personnel.

The recommendation also extends to non-employees who are active at a healthcare facility, such as students or volunteers, but supports exemptions based on medical contraindications to the authorized COVID-19 vaccines and “other exemptions as specified by federal or state law,” according to the societies’ statement.

The groups that signed off on the statement are:

  • The Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA)
  • AMDA – The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine
  • The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology
  • The Infectious Diseases Society of America
  • The HIV Medicine Association
  • The Pediatric Infectious Disease Society
  • The Society of Infectious Disease Pharmacists

“The COVID-19 vaccines in use in the United States have been shown to be safe and effective,” David J. Weber, a member of the SHEA board of trustees and lead author of the consensus statement, said in a joint announcement. “By requiring vaccination as a condition of employment we raise levels of vaccination for healthcare personnel, improve protection of our patients and aid in reaching community protection. As healthcare personnel, we’re committed to these goals.”

The professional organizations noted that routine vaccination rates among providers that did not institute vaccination policies were low prior to COVID-19. Flu vaccination rates, for example, ranged from 94.4% to 69.6% among healthcare employers who did and did not require the shots as a condition of employment.

The statement’s authors acknowledged that there’s still more to learn about the vaccines, particularly regarding the duration of their protection and their potential impact on maternal or fetal health.

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On the latter point, the groups said pregnant and lactating healthcare workers should be permitted to receive the vaccine due to their increased susceptibility to COVID-19, but that “healthcare facilities may wish to allow pregnant [healthcare personnel] to postpone receipt of the vaccine until post-delivery.”

Among organizations for which a mandatory vaccination policy “is not possible at the present time,” efforts should still be made to encourage vaccination among staff. These include senior leadership endorsement, vaccine education, paid time off for vaccination appointments and recovery.

However, should coverage not exceed roughly 90% over “a reasonable time period” of one to three months, these organizations should move ahead and formalize the COVID-19 vaccine requirement among their employees.

The groups said their recommendation was developed during an eight-week evidence review conducted by multiorganization panel of experts in infectious disease prevention, pharmacy, employment law and human resources.

Alongside their recommendation, the consensus statement includes a breakdown of clinical, legal, privacy and safety considerations for stakeholders weighing the decision to adopt a mandatory COVID-19 vaccine policy at their organization.

RELATED: 153 Houston Methodist employees have resigned or were fired for refusing COVID-19 vaccination

While some healthcare providers have said they’ll be waiting for full FDA approval of the COVID-19 vaccines, a growing number of hospitals and systems have gone ahead an unveiled mandatory vaccinations in recent weeks. These have included Houston Methodist, Mercy, Henry Ford Health System, SSM Health and, as of Friday, Trinity Health.

Executives from each of these providers echoed the professional organizations’ stance that the COVID-19 vaccines are largely safe and are necessary to ensure patients’ safety.

"We feel it is important that we take every step available to us to stop the spread and protect those around us—especially the most vulnerable in our communities who cannot be vaccinated including young children and the more than 10 million people who are immunocompromised," Trinity Health President and CEO Mike Slubowski said in a statement last week announcing the new policy for his 117,000-plus employees.

"Over the last year, Trinity Health has counted our own colleagues and patients in the too-high coronavirus death toll. Now that we have a proven way to prevent COVID-19 deaths, we are not hesitating to do our part," he said.