WASHINGTON — Some 60 leading medical and health industry groups are calling for health care employers to require their workers to get COVID-19 vaccines as the more aggressive delta variant spreads across the nation, and some communities report troubling increases in hospitalizations among unvaccinated people.
The groups include the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Nursing, the American Public Health Association and, for the first time, a nursing home industry group. LeadingAge, which represents nonprofit nursing homes and elder care facilities, had previously advocated educating nursing home employees about the benefits of getting their shots.
“Unfortunately, many health care and long-term care personnel remain unvaccinated,” the groups said in a statement. “We stand with the growing number of experts and institutions that support the requirement for universal vaccination of health workers.”
At least one Chicago hospital is on board with the recommendation. Rush University Medical Center joins a growing number of hospitals and health care systems requiring all employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
“We think it’s really critically important that if you’re a patient coming to Rush University Medical Center that you should know that whoever you are encountering on the Rush team is vaccinated and you’re not a risk of contracting COVID-19,” said Dr. Paul Casey, Chief Medical Officer, Rush University Medical Center.
All staff – those who come in contact with patients and those who don’t – as well as contractors and volunteers must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 1. The hospital says more than 80% of its staff has already taken the shot.
“It wasn’t without a lot of thought and a lot of input from all of our staff and patients as well that we went through prior to putting out this mandate,” Dr. Casey said.
It’s a mandate that many municipalities and government agencies are taking on. For example, California and New York City require all government employees to be vaccinated or face weekly covid testing.
“The longer we wait to extinguish this disease, the more likely we will be facing another mutation,” said New York governor Gavin Newsom.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot says the city is not there yet, but she has held conversations with the city’s labor unions. The move comes as officials are trying to beat a summer surge driven by the Delta variant.
“Covid is not going away any time soon and really, at this point, as the CDC director has said, that it’s really a pandemic amongst two different communities – those that have been vaccinated and those that haven’t been vaccinated. So we really want our family, our community, our staff to be part of that vaccinated community that’s protected from the ill effects of COVID,” Dr. Casey said.