July 22, 2021

'The evidence is clear': AHA backs hospitals that mandate Covid-19 vaccines

Daily Briefing

    The American Hospital Association (AHA) and America's Essential Hospitals (AEH) on Wednesday separately issued statements supporting hospitals that require Covid-19 vaccines for their staffs.

    Should you mandate a Covid-19 vaccine for your staff? Ask these 5 questions first. 

    Major hospital groups support hospitals that implement vaccine mandates

    In its statement, AHA said it "strongly urges the vaccination of all health care personnel." It added that it "supports hospitals and health systems that adopt mandatory Covid-19 vaccination policies for health care personnel, with local factors and circumstances shaping whether and how these policies are implemented."

    "The evidence is clear: Covid-19 vaccines are safe and effective in reducing both the risk of becoming infected and spreading the virus to others," Richard Pollack, AHA's president and CEO, said in an accompanying statement.

    Similarly, AEH in its statement said it urges its member hospitals "to require vaccination for their employees, for their protection and the safety of patients."

    "Health care professionals and other dedicated essential hospital staff have led the nation's response to Covid-19, and they can lead the way to recovery by making a strong and unequivocal statement on the value of vaccination," AEH said.

    Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University's School of Public Health, applauded AHA's statement, saying it is "clearly what is necessary. It's really good for patients, and it gives cover to a lot of hospitals that have been on the fence."

    AHA and AEH in their announcements join the Association of American Medical Colleges, which on Friday urged its members to mandate Covid-19 vaccine for health care workers.

    More hospitals implement vaccine mandates

    AHA and AEH's statements come as vaccination rates among health care workers have begun to stagnate nationwide, with a large portion of health care workers remaining unvaccinated. One estimate from WebMD found that, by the end of May, 25% of hospital workers remained unvaccinated.

    This has led more hospitals and health systems to implement vaccine mandates. NewYork-Presbyterian, Yale New Haven, and Trinity Health have all implemented mandates, as has Banner Health, which announced its mandate on Tuesday.

    Trinity decided to implement its mandate earlier this month in response to rising Covid-19 cases nationwide, the New York Times reports. "We were convinced that the vaccine can save lives," Daniel Roth, Trinity's chief clinical officer, said. "These are preventable deaths."

    SSM Health elected to implement a mandate in response to sharp rises in Covid-19 cases in Missouri. "We felt we could not wait," Shephali Wulff, director of infectious diseases at SSM Health, said. "We need a healthy work force going into the flu season," Wulff added.

    Why some hospitals are hesitant to implement mandates

    Other hospitals and health systems, including Cleveland Clinic and Intermountain Healthcare, have elected to wait on implementing a vaccine mandate, arguing that policies such as masking and infection-tracking are protecting both patients and staff.

    "We know if we ensure these safety precautions are in place, we know we can continue to keep our patients and caregivers safe," K. Kelly Hancock, Cleveland Clinic's chief caregiver officer, said. Hancock added that around 75% of Cleveland Clinic's employees are vaccinated and that vaccination efforts are continuing "full force."

    Similarly, Maxine Carrington, chief human resources officer at Northwell Health, told the New York Times that Northwell is holding off on a mandate for Covid-19 vaccines. Northwell doesn't require its employees to be vaccinated against the flu, but around 90% of its employees get their flu vaccines, Carrington said.

    "We want people to be believers," Carrington said, so employees can persuade more people in the community to get vaccinated. Carrington said Northwell is "pounding the pavement on education, education, education."

    Some hospitals and health systems have been reluctant to implement vaccine mandates because they're facing staffing shortages caused by workers leaving during the pandemic, often due to burnout and stress.

    "They are afraid it could be a tipping point," Ann Marie Pettis, president of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, said.

    According to Joey Austin, a spokesperson for Mosaic Life Care, executives at the hospital group are hesitant to implement a vaccine mandate if other hospitals in the area don't. "We have the potential to lose some caregivers to other systems," Austin said. (Diamond, Washington Post, 7/21; America's Essential Hospitals release, 7/21; Abelson, New York Times, 7/21)

    Should you mandate a Covid-19 vaccine for your staff?

    Ask these 5 questions first.

    clash

    Across the country, health care employers are facing a pressing question: How do you increase the number of staff vaccinated against Covid-19? Advisory Board's Miriam Sznycer-Taub, Lauren Woodrow, and Heather Bell spoke with Kimberly Daniel, partner at the health care law firm Hancock, Daniel & Johnson, P.C about the implications of mandating Covid-19 vaccines for your employees.

    Read more

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