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The primary organization representing the infection preventionists who often coordinate vaccination efforts at hospitals says that COVID-19 vaccines should be mandatory.
APIC just jumped into the debate about whether hospitals and other health care systems should mandate that their employees get the COVID-19 vaccine with both feet. APIC—or the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, which represents about 15,000 infection preventionists (IPs) around the world—says yes, hospitals and other health care systems should make their employees get the vaccine.
Pettis continued: “Low health care staff vaccination rates put vulnerable populations at risk of contracting COVID-19. As health care professionals, we have an ethical responsibility to protect those individuals entrusted to our care.”
This is an argument that other health care professionals who’ve spoken to Infection Control Today® about this topic have used, experts such as Kevin Kavanagh, MD, a member of ICT®’s Editorial Advisory Board, and Paul Sax, MD, the clinical director of the infectious disease clinic at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
The issue came to a head in early June when Houston Methodist Hospital suspended for 2 weeks 178 employees who had refused to get vaccinated.
Marc L. Boom, MD, Houston Methodist Hospital’s CEO and president, took an unequivocal stand in mandating that employees get vaccinated and it’s a stand that not only other health care institutions—but all companies in every industry—might also possibly take thanks to guidance on the matter that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) updated on May 28. The EEOC says that employers can mandate that all employees re-entering the workplace and new hires be vaccinated against COVID-19.
One hundred and seventeen employees that Houston Methodist Hospital suspended sued the hospital, arguing that they should not be forced to take any of the 3 COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the United States because they were granted under the Food and Drug Administration’s emergency use authorization (EUA), which essentially makes the vaccines an experimental “and dangerous” treatment. U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes dismissed the lawsuit, but that decision has been appealed.
Some major hospital systems have followed Houston Methodist’s lead and have made employment contingent on getting the COVID-19 vaccine. They include Johns Hopkins Hospital, Penn Medicine: University of Pennsylvania Health System, and New York-Presbyterian Columbia University Medical Center in New York.
On its website, APIC lists the growing number of hospitals that have taken this step and the states in which they are located. The organization also notes the troubling development of the rate of COVID-19 vaccinations stalling in recent weeks, meaning that the United States might not meet the “necessary [inoculation] threshold to adequately halt the spread of the virus.”
“Because voluntary vaccination policies are not always effective in achieving acceptable vaccination rates, many health care organizations opt to require them as a condition of employment,” Pettis said in the press release. “Those that do see dramatic increases in their vaccination rates. Vaccination is the single most effective strategy we have to stop the spread of this virus — including the more dangerous variants — and to prevent needless suffering, hospitalization, and death.”