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Dozens of medical groups urge COVID-19 vaccination mandates for health workers

A nurse fills a syringe with COVID-19 vaccine in Reading, Pennsylvania.

A nurse fills a syringe with COVID-19 vaccine in Reading, Pennsylvania. (Image credit: Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images)

More than 50 U.S. medical groups, representing millions of health care professionals, are calling for mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for all health and long-term care workers, according to news reports.

On Monday (July 26), 57 medical organizations — including the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics — released a joint statement urging such vaccine requirements, The Washington Post reported.

A vaccination mandate "is the logical fulfillment of the ethical commitment of all health care workers to put patients as well as residents of long-term care facilities first and take all steps necessary to ensure their health and well-being," the statement said.

The statement noted that cases of COVID-19 are spiking in the U.S. again as more transmissible coronavirus variants, including the delta variant, spread throughout the country.

"Vaccination is the primary way to put the pandemic behind us and avoid the return of stringent public health measures," the statement said.

Health care workers were among the first groups of Americans to be eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations after the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines received emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration in December 2020. Still, by the end of May 2021, an estimated 25% of hospital workers who had come into contact with patients had not been vaccinated, according to the Post. Additionally, as of mid-July, 38% of nursing home workers had not been fully vaccinated, the Post reported.

The statement signatories hope the policy sets an example for employers across the country, including those outside the health care industry.

"One of the things that resonated with people is, 'Look, we're the medical community. This is a health problem. We need to lead — and we need to have the courage of our convictions,'" Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, a bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania who organized the joint statement, told the Post.

Still, less than 9% of U.S. hospitals have mandated COVID-19 vaccination, with some facilities worried about lawsuits, the Post reported. After the Texas-based Houston Methodist hospital system issued a COVID-19 vaccination mandate in April, former staff sued the hospital, but a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit.

Overall, nearly 70% of U.S adults have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 60% have been fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Originally published on Live Science.  

Rachael Rettner

Rachael has been with Live Science since 2010. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.