After a Texas federal court sided with a Houston hospital urging workers to get a COVID-19 vaccine or find another job, public health experts predict that most hospitals and doctor’s offices will soon find similar ones Will give mandates.
When vaccines first became available under an emergency clearance in December, hospitals reported that they wanted to wait for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to approve the vaccines before deciding whether to make vaccinations mandatory.
But in the past few weeks, dozens of hospitals and medical groups in Indiana, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Washington, DC, and elsewhere have started enacting vaccination regulations. Public health experts say the moves are a legal means of ensuring a safe, COVID-19-free environment for patients and workers.
It makes sense to require an injection from health care workers for liability reasons, said James Hodge Jr., a law professor at Arizona State University and director of the Western Region Office for the Network for Public Health Law. He said hospitals and other medical groups run serious legal risk if a patient becomes infected through contact with an unvaccinated worker.
A growing number of hospitals are starting to make the vaccine mandatory for workers with some religious and medical exemptions, the American Hospital Association said in an email State limit. However, some are waiting for the FDA to fully approve the shots and for more safety and efficacy data to become available.
In response to a flurry of vaccine requirements in healthcare and other professions, at least six states – Arkansas, Florida, Montana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Utah – have passed new laws restricting compulsory COVID-19 vaccinations.
In all but Tennessee, the new laws prohibit employers from requiring workers to have a vaccine, but provide an exception for health and public health workers, according to a National Conference of State Legislatures research.
Tennessee law prohibits the governor or state agency from requiring a person to be vaccinated, and makes no exception for healthcare workers.
Lawsuits and protests
In the Texas case, 117 employees at the Houston Methodist Hospital who were up to 7
US District Judge Lynn Hughes of the Southern District of Texas turned down the case, arguing in one Judgment of June 12th that if the hospital staff did not want to receive a COVID-19 vaccination, they were free to work elsewhere.
“Methodist is trying to save lives without giving them the COVID-19 virus. It is a choice made to keep employees, patients and their families safer, ”he wrote.
Hughes cited a 1905 US Supreme Court case, Jacobson v Massachusetts, which found Cambridge, Massachusetts had legal authority to require residents to be vaccinated against smallpox or to be fined $ 5 numbers. The Supreme Court found the public health mandate to be justified.
The five-page ruling by Hughes is considered the first substantial ruling on the issue of COVID-19 vaccination. According to research by the Network for Public Health Law, at least six other cases from schools, universities, first aiders and nursing home workers are still pending or have been discontinued without notice.
Texas isn’t the only place hospital workers are protesting vaccination requirements.
In Indiana, more than 11,000 Indiana University Health employees have signed a petition asking the medical system to freely choose whether to take the vaccine report from WLKY, a partner of CBS News. The Indianapolis-based healthcare system employs more than 34,000 people.
“We should have the right to say no to the vaccine, just like our patients have the right to say no, and I just feel like they are taking away the freedoms of health workers,” medical assistant Laurie Tucker told WLKY. “If you have the date of September 1st to lose you are going to lose many people at one time.”
Beyond all legal issues, medical staff in all areas have an ethical and professional obligation to protect their patients with a COVID-19 vaccination, said Dr. William Schaffner, professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.
He said he wasn’t surprised that hospitals only need the vaccine with emergency FDA clearance or that the Texas court has upheld the mandate. “We have given this vaccine to nearly 70% of the US population and the data shows that its effectiveness and safety are very well maintained.”
Dr. Marcus Plescia, chief medical officer for the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, said health should be a top priority in workplace mandates.
“Getting vaccinated is part of health ethics,” he said. “You take care of people who are very physically at risk and you have to protect them. I am always surprised that there is a contingent in the healthcare system that does not want to be vaccinated. “
Both the American Medical Association and the American Nurses Association have called upon all health professionals to be given a chance to protect their patients and themselves.
The organizations have also urged healthcare professionals to get vaccinated to set an example for patients who may be reluctant to receive a vaccination.
“Practicing physicians across the country are leading by example with amazing adoption of the COVID-19 vaccines,” said American Medical Association President Dr. Susan Bailey, in a public statement. “Doctors and clinicians are uniquely positioned to listen to and validate patient concerns, and one of the strongest anecdotes a doctor can offer is that they were vaccinated themselves.”
June 11th survey from the American Medical Association showed 96% of the doctors who responded were fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
A survey conducted by the American Nurses Association between January 19 and February 16 found that 70% of the nurses who responded had received at least one injection by now. The organization plans to interview its members again this summer.
For most healthcare workers, an annual flu vaccination is already compulsory, as is vaccination against measles, mumps, chickenpox and other infectious diseases. Health care workers have filed dozens of lawsuits against these requests over the decades, Hodges said, but as in the Texas case, courts have routinely dismissed them.
In general, the current vaccine mandates were not set until after the vaccines received final FDA approval. So far, the three COVID-19 vaccines used in the US have only received emergency approval, despite Pfizer and Moderna filing for full approval of their products.
In the Texas lawsuit, lead plaintiff Jennifer Bridges alleged that she was asked to become a “human guinea pig” because the vaccines were only given emergency approval. She argued in the complaint that “no one can be assigned to obtain ‘unapproved’ medication in an emergency”.
Hughes rejected her request, ruling that the emergency permit “neither expands nor restricts the responsibilities of private employers”.
Legal experts initially advised employers to wait for vaccines to gain full FDA approval before making them mandatory.
But the federal centers for disease control and prevention on May 25th said that “for some health care workers or key employees, for example, a state or local government or employer may require or require vaccination of workers under state or other law”.
And the Federal Commission for Equal Opportunities announced May 28 that employers’ vaccination regulations do not violate federal regulations.