UPDATE: July 26, 2021: A coalition of over 50 medical groups representing an array of different providers issued a joint statement Monday urging healthcare facilities to require mandatory COVID-19 vaccines for employees. The stance is stronger than the American Hospital Association’s, which was not included in the letter.
With rising cases of the delta variant, "Vaccination is the primary way to put the pandemic behind us and avoid the return of stringent public health measures," the letter, signed by groups like the American Medical Association and Association of American Medical Colleges, said.
- After not taking a position on mandating COVID-19 vaccines, the American Hospital Association said it now "supports" providers that require employees to get the jab.
- Another hospital lobby, America's Essential Hospitals, went one step further and issued a statement urging its members to require the vaccination of its employees. AEH mostly represents safety-net facilities.
- The U.S. is averaging more than 37,000 COVID-19 cases per day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's latest figures on the seven-day moving average. On Tuesday, there were 46,318 new reported cases, more than five times the amount of cases reported a month earlier as the highly transmissible delta variant causes hospitals in some parts of the country to once again face full ICUs.
An increasing number of health systems are mandating COVID-19 vaccines for employees as the nation sees cases and hospitalizations continue to rise.
Just this week, Arizona's largest private employer, Banner Health, announced that it, too, would require employees to obtain a COVID-19 vaccine by the fall. Banner Health joins a growing number of hospitals and providers taking this step, including Houston Methodist, Henry Ford Health System and Mass General Brigham.
Some of the facilities making the requirement have moved ahead with firing employees that don't comply.
Due to the risks of the disease, AHA "strongly urges the vaccination of all health care personnel," but its most recent statement does not ask its members to require the vaccine.
"We believe hospitals should be afforded every reasonable tool to achieve this goal, including the use of mandatory vaccination policies. That said, the most effective approach to achieving high vaccination rates for a given hospital could vary based on local circumstances," Akin Demehin, AHA's director of policy, said in a statement when asked why the stance was not more forceful.
AHA said if providers mandate vaccines they should also make sure to provide exemptions for medical reasons, including those backed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
While rate of COVID-19 cases is still well below the nation's peak in January, experts are calling it the pandemic of the unvaccinated as the disease gains a significant foothold in areas with low vaccination rates.
On Wednesday, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci, who also advises the White House on pandemic response, said in light of the delta variant vaccinated people may want to consider wearing a mask indoors, particularly in regions of the country with high levels of disease. He does anticipate local authorities may require masks again due to the uptick in cases but doesn't expect lockdowns or a national mask mandate.