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The COVID-19 pandemic has inspired a lot of mandates over the past year and a half, with states and municipalities mandating mask-wearing, social distancing, limited indoor crowd capacities and more. Now the latest call in the healthcare industry is for mandated coronavirus vaccines, a move that has drawn support from organizations such as the American Medical Association.

California and New York City announced vaccine mandates for government employees, with weekly testing required for those who don’t comply, and according to The Hill, the Department of Veterans Affairs became the first federal agency to mandate the vaccine, with a particular focus on front-line healthcare workers.

Calls for the vaccine mandates were spurred by a rising number of cases, deaths and hospitalizations from the virus, due principally to a slowing vaccination rate combined with more transmissible variants, such as the delta variant. 

The new surge is overwhelmingly affecting the unvaccinated. Experts say that a vaccination rate of roughly 70 to 75{f08ff3a0ad7db12f5b424ba38f473ff67b97b420df338baa81683bbacd458fca} of Americans is needed to achieve herd immunity, which is when a critical mass of the population becomes inoculated against an infectious disease, thereby cutting off its avenues for transmission.

The U.S. remains well short of this goal, leading to hospitals and emergency rooms that are once again buckling under the weight of an influx of critically ill patients. This threatens to set back an industry that is still recovering from the depths of the pandemic in 2020, which decimated health systems’ balance sheets and affected everything from margins to revenue and expenditures.

The more the virus spreads, the more chance the virus has to mutate into even more, stronger variants. This has drawn support for the vaccine mandates from industry groups.

WHAT’S THE IMPACT?

One of the most high-profile groups backing the vaccine mandates is the American Medical Association, which said vaccination is the best means of avoiding the return of stringent public health measures such as masking and social distancing.

“It is critical that all people in the healthcare workforce get vaccinated against COVID-19 for the safety of our patients and our colleagues,” said Dr. Susan Bailey, immediate past president of the AMA. “With more than 300 million doses administered in the United States and nearly 4 billion doses administered worldwide, we know the vaccines are safe and highly effective at preventing severe illness and death from COVID-19.

“Increased vaccinations among healthcare personnel will not only reduce the spread of COVID-19, but also reduce the harmful toll this virus is taking within the healthcare workforce and those we are striving to serve.”

The AMA advocated the mandates for all healthcare and long-term care employers, saying it’s the “logical fulfillment of the ethical commitment” to put patients first.

Unfortunately, the group said, many healthcare and long-term care personnel remain unvaccinated. With full FDA approval looming for the currently available vaccines, the AMA said all healthcare workers should get their shots, not only for their own health, but to protect those who are vulnerable, including unvaccinated children and the immunocompromised. The organization pointed out that the healthcare industry already requires vaccinations against influenza, hepatitis B and pertussis.

“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 AMA said. “Employers should consider any applicable state laws on a case-by-case basis.”

A statement signed by a wealth of healthcare industry groups, including the AMA, the American College of Physicians, the American Nurses Association and the American Public Health Association echoed these sentiments.

“Existing COVID-19 vaccine mandates have proven effective,” the statement read. “Simultaneously, we recognize the historical mistrust of healthcare institutions, including among many in our own healthcare workforce. We must continue to address workers’ concerns, engage with marginalized populations, and work with trusted messengers to improve vaccine acceptance.”

The groups added that they hope other employers across the country follow the healthcare industry in implementing such mandates.

More than 50 healthcare professional societies and organizations signed the statement.

THE LARGER TREND

As of Tuesday morning, there were 194,909,258 confirmed cases of COVID-19 across the world, including more than 34.5 million in the U.S., which leads the world. The U.S. also leads the world in virus-related deaths, with 611,012, according to the Johns Hopkins coronavirus tracker. 

India is second in the world in terms of cases, with more than 31.4 million, while Brazil comes in third at roughly 19.7 million. Brazil has recorded the second-highest number of deaths, at more than 550,000, while India has the third-highest death rate, with more than 421,000.
 

Twitter: @JELagasse
Email the writer: [email protected]



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