Cancer Organizations Implore Health Care Employers to Mandate COVID-19 Vaccines

Several cancer organizations signed a group statement calling for health care employers to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for their employees.

A coalition of professional organizations issued a joint statement on Monday imploring health care employers to require COVID-19 vaccinations for their employees. More than 50 professional health care organizations signed the statement, including the American Society of Hematology (ASH), the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the American Society for Radiation Oncology, the Society for Gynecologic Oncology, and the American Medical Association.1

The groups said their endorsement of mandatory COVID-19 vaccination “aims to protect the safety of patients and residents of long-term care facilities,” according to a news release issued by ASH. They hope to establish the health care sector a leader in COVID-19 vaccination.

If implemented, this mandate would cover 17 million health care workers.

“Health care workers have an ethical duty to put patients’ health and well-being first. and getting vaccinated for COVID-19 is integral to that duty,” Ezekiel J. Emanuel, MD, PhD, said in a statement, which he organized. Emanuel is vice provost for global initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania. He is also a breast oncologist, the Diane v.S. Levy and Robert M. Levy University Professor at University of Pennsylvania and co-director of the school’s Health Transformation Institute. He formerly served as special advisor for health policy to the director of the Office of Management and Budget in the White House for the Obama Administration and chair of the Department of Bioethics at the National Institutes of Health for 14 years.

“Employer vaccine mandates are effective and lifesaving, and they are especially appropriate in health care and long-term care settings,” Emanuel added. “No patient should have to worry that they could become infected by one of their care providers, and no provider should put their patient at risk.”

The statement comes as COVID-19 diagnoses, hospitalizations, and deaths are on the rise, mostly among the unvaccinated. Health care workers are more likely to be fully vaccinated than the general population. However, approximately one-quarter of hospital workers who have direct contact with patients had not received a single dose of a COVID-19 vaccine as of the end of May 2021, according to a WebMD and Medscape Medical News analysis of data collected by the Department of Health and Human Services from 2500 hospitals across the United States.2

Vaccine administration peaked in late March and early April. The spread of the delta variant, which is more contagious than the alpha variant and resistant to vaccination, has also given new life to a pandemic that seemed to be winding down.3

“As the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue to rise due to the COVID-19 delta variant, especially among unvaccinated persons, requiring that all health care workers who can get vaccinated receive a COVID-19 vaccine will help protect them, their patients, loved ones and others who are vulnerable and immunocompromised,” George M. Abraham, MD, MPH, president of the American College of Physicians, said in the statement.

CDC director Rochelle Walensky, MD, has said that as many as 99% of COVID-19 deaths over the past 6 months have been among those who are unvaccinated.

The Alabama Department of Public Health issued a report July 13 saying that the state had recorded 529 COVID-19 deaths since April 1.4 Of those, 509 were unvaccinated. As of July 16, only 33.6% of the state’s total population and 42.3% of the adult population was fully vaccinated.The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center has recorded 20,733 new cases and 147 new deaths in Alabama over the past 30 days.6

In contrast, Vermont leads the nation with more than 68% of the total population fully vaccinated. There have been 3 COVID-19 deaths over the past 30 days, down from a high of 67 in December 2020.7

References

  1. Major health care professional organizations call for covid-19 vaccine mandates for all health workers. News release. July 26, 2021. Accessed July 26, 2021. https://bit.ly/3BFUHwJ
  2. Goodman B, Miller A. Huge number of hospital workers still unvaccinated. WebMD Health News. June 28, 2021. Accessed July 26, 2021. https://wb.md/2UIjOi1
  3. Lopez Bernal J, Andrews N, et al. Effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines against the B.1.617.2 (Delta) variant. N Engl J Med. Published online ahead of print July 21, 2021. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa2108891
  4. Alabama Public Health. Unvaccinated people represent 96.2 percent of COVID-19 deaths in Alabama since April 1. July 13, 2021. Accessed July 26, 2021. https://bit.ly/3iOsrPN
  5. US Department of Health and Human Services. COVID-19 Community Profile Report. Alabama state synopsis. July 16, 2021. Accessed July 26, 2021. https://bit.ly/376WBs0
  6. Johns Hopkins University of Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center. Alabama. Accessed July 26, 2021. https://bit.ly/3BTsUZY
  7. Johns Hopkins University of Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center. Vermont. Accessed July 26, 2021. https://bit.ly/3f0yGip

This article was originally published on OncLive as “Cancer Organizations Call for Mandated COVID-19 Vaccines for Health Care Workers”