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By Gary Evans, Medical Writer
The nation’s leading infectious disease groups have issued a joint paper recommending COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of employment for healthcare workers, with limited exemptions.
The broad consensus adds considerable momentum to the mandate movement, and now it may be only a matter of time before universal COVID-19 immunization of employees will be the standard across healthcare.
This consensus statement was issued by the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA), the Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine (AMDA), the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC), the HIV Medicine Association (HIVMA), the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society (PIDS), and the Society of Infectious Diseases Pharmacists (SIDP).
“The bottom line is that we, as a group of societies, feel that this is the right thing to do for our communities, patients, and healthcare providers,” lead author David Webber, MD, said at a press conference. “We have a precedent for doing this for other [occupational] diseases. We believe the benefits of the vaccine for our healthcare providers far outweigh any possible harm, and we strongly endorse this statement.”
Representing SHEA, Webber said the rapidly emerging Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 also underscores the importance of vaccinating healthcare workers and the public in general.
“It is much more transmissible and has a higher risk of hospitalization,” he said. “The most rapid spread is occurring in those states with the highest percentage of unvaccinated people. There [are] good data that the mRNA vaccines continue to provide protection against hospitalizations, but a little less protection against illness. This is the time to be pushing vaccination to the general public and our healthcare providers as well.”
As has been seen with seasonal flu shots, optimal vaccination rates are unlikely to be reached without making immunization a condition of work, the paper observed. The group did not specify the methods of establishing mandatory programs, but said it was time to start outlining COVID-19 vaccination requirements, while both talking and listening to healthcare workers.
For more on this story, see the next issue of Hospital Infection Control & Prevention.
Gary Evans, BA, MA, has written numerous articles on infectious disease threats to both patients and healthcare workers. These include stories on HIV, SARS, SARS-CoV-2, pandemic influenza, MERS, and Ebola. He has been honored for excellence in analytical reporting in newsletter journalism five times by the National Press Club in Washington, DC.