Hospitals and other healthcare facilities should require employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19, according to a consensus statement by the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) and six other leading organizations representing medical professionals working in infectious diseases, infection prevention, pharmacy, pediatrics, and long-term care. The paper specifies exemption for those with medical contraindications, and some others circumstances in compliance with federal and state laws.
“The COVID-19 vaccines in use in the United States have been shown to be safe and effective,” said David J. Weber, a member of the SHEA board of trustees and lead author of the statement. “By requiring vaccination as a condition of employment we raise levels of vaccination for healthcare personnel, improve protection of our patients, and aid in reaching community protection. As healthcare personnel, we’re committed to these goals.”
SHEA convened a multiorganizational panel of experts in infectious disease prevention, law, and human resources, with representatives from AMDA – The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine, The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC), the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), the HIV Medicine Association (HIVMA), the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society (PIDS), and the Society of Infectious Diseases Pharmacists (SIDP). The panel conducted an eight-week review of evidence on the three vaccines authorized for use in the United States, vaccination rates, and employment law to develop the statement.
Research shows that prior to the pandemic, rates of routine vaccinations among healthcare providers were suboptimal. For flu vaccination, when healthcare employers instituted policies of influenza vaccination as a condition of employment, compliance rose to 94.4 percent compared to 69.6 percent in organizations without a requirement.
More than 33 million Americans have contracted COVID-19 and more than 600,000 have died. The COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use in the United States have been found safe and effective in preventing infection and reducing transmission. Studies have demonstrated that the COVID19 vaccines authorized for use in the US also protect against variants, and are particularly effective against severe disease, hospitalization, and death. Despite the positive data, there are still many healthcare professionals who have declined to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
“Vaccinating the healthcare workforce reduces the risk of transmission by protecting patients, healthcare personnel, and communities, and maintains trust in healthcare providers and healthcare institutions,” Weber said.
The statement explains what to consider in developing a policy of COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of employment, including a thorough overview of current vaccines’ safety and efficacy, legal considerations, ways to engage stakeholders and improve vaccination rates before implementing a policy of vaccination as a condition of employment, and advantages to having a fully vaccinated workforce.