More than 50 prominent medical organizations today called for all U.S. health-care employers and long-term care facilities to require COVID-19 vaccinations for their entire staffs.
The call for action comes as the delta variant fuels a nationwide surge of COVID-19 deaths and infections among unvaccinated Americans. Last week the American Hospital Association and America’s Essential Hospitals also called for mandatory COVID vaccinations for all health-care workers.
The 53 organizations that issued today’s joint statement include the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the National Association for Home Care & Hospice, and the American Nursing Association.
“Vaccination is the primary way to put the pandemic behind us and avoid the return of stringent public health measures,” the statement said. “Unfortunately, many health care and long-term care personnel remain unvaccinated. As we move towards full FDA approval of the currently available vaccines, all health care workers should get vaccinated for their own health, and to protect their colleagues, families, residents of long-term care facilities and patients.”
The group statement appears to have divided the two main organizations that represent the nursing home industry.
The American Health Care Association did not sign on to the statement, even though more than 180,000 nursing home and long-term care residents have died from COVID. A spokesperson for the AHCA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
LeadingAge, which represents more than 5,000 nonprofit aging services providers, including nursing homes, is backing the call for mandatory staff vaccinations.
The AHCA had spearheaded a volunteer effort that sought — but failed — to get 75% of nursing home staff vaccinated by the end of June. Nursing home staff vaccination rates vary widely in the U.S., with a national rate of just over 61%, according to a statement issued by LeadingAge.
“Care providers have been working around the clock to steadily increase the number of residents and staff who are vaccinated, and COVID deaths have plummeted, but it’s time to do more,” Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO of LeadingAge, said in a statement. “As COVID-19 variants emerge and proliferate, we can start saving more lives today by ensuring staff are fully vaccinated.”
Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities have been the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, accounting for nearly 184,000 deaths and more than 1.4 million infections as of July 2, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Infected staffers are believed to be the cause of much of the carnage.
In March, an unvaccinated employee in a Kentucky nursing home is believed to have spurred an outbreak involving a variant that killed three residents and infected 26 others along with 20 facility staff. Only four of the infected staffers were fully vaccinated, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.
Susan R. Bailey, immediate past president of the American Medical Association, said in a statement that it’s “critical that all people in the health care workforce get vaccinated against COVID-19 for the safety of our patients and our colleagues.”
“With more than 300 million doses administered in the United States and nearly 4 billion doses administered worldwide we know the vaccines are safe and highly effective at preventing severe illness and death from COVID-19,” Bailey said.