Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Sunday that he fully supports requiring COVID-19 vaccines for health care workers, joining a list of medical officials calling for the idea amid reports of some in the medical community refusing to get inoculated against the virus.
In an interview with Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press,” the country’s top infectious disease expert said it is “inexplicable” that some health care workers, many patient-facing, have decided to not get vaccinated against the disease that has killed more than 600,000 Americans.
“You are a health care worker,” Fauci said. “Your profession, the thing you’ve devoted your life to, is to protect people, to make them well, to protect them from disease.”
The president’s chief medical adviser told Todd that it is not a new idea to require health care workers to get vaccinated in order to work in the field.
“I see patients at the [National Institute of Health] clinical center. If I don’t get [the] flu vaccine, or hepatitis vaccine, I’m not allowed to see patients. So this isn’t something that’s brand new with COVID,” Fauci said.
“So I’m very much in favor of mandating, if you wanna see patients and you wanna participate in health care, you need to get vaccinated. Period.”
The support for vaccine mandates comes amid a disastrous spread of COVID-19′s highly transmissible delta variant that has had a severe impact among the unvaccinated. As long as there are this many unvaccinated people, the virus will continue to mutate, prolonging the pandemic and threatening people’s lives. Vaccines protect a person from getting severely ill from COVID-19 and help reduce the spread of the virus.
Last month, nearly 60 major medical organizations signed a letter urging health care and long-term care employers to require employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The letter included the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Physicians, among others.
“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,” Dr. Susan Bailey, the AMA’s immediate past president, said in a statement.
“Increased vaccinations among health care personnel will not only reduce the spread of COVID-19 but also reduce the harmful toll this virus is taking within the health care workforce and those we are striving to serve.”
According to an AMA survey, vaccinations among physicians are nearly universal at 95%, though the same doesn’t apply to other workers at health care facilities. Recent numbers from Medicare show that only about 60% of staffers in nursing homes are vaccinated, compared to about 80% of residents.
While there is no federal law blocking employers from requiring vaccinations, the issue of protecting oneself and one’s community from a plague has been politicized in a country where approaches to public health are divided and misinformation consumption is high.
More than half of unvaccinated Americans believe, wrongly, that the COVID-19 vaccine is more dangerous than the virus, according to a poll released Aug. 4 from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation’s Vaccine Monitor project.
The available vaccines, which are expected to soon graduate from emergency use authorization to full approval by the Food and Drug Administration, are built on decades of research that began long before COVID-19 hit last year. Officials like Fauci are hoping the FDA approval will empower more entities to mandate vaccines, even though the shots have already shown proof that they work and are safe, as scientists have been saying.
On the same day as the July 26 letter, the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs became the first major federal agency to require its more than 100,000 health care workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19. It’s unclear what would happen to VA employees who refuse the vaccine, though workers have eight weeks from the announcement to get inoculated.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) also announced on July 26 that health care personnel will be required to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19, or undergo weekly testing. The mandate also applies to employees of the state who work in high-risk “congregate settings,” which include adult and senior residential facilities.
“We are now dealing with a pandemic of the unvaccinated, and it’s going to take renewed efforts to protect Californians from the dangerous Delta variant,” Newsom said of the mandate, which impacts about 2 million health workers in California’s public and private health care sector.
On Aug. 5, a major eldercare chain announced it is now requiring all employees and vendors to be vaccinated to keep their jobs. Pennsylvania-based Genesis HealthCare, which has 70,000 employees and about 400 nursing homes and senior communities, said 85% of residents and 65% of staff had voluntarily gotten the vaccine.
And just days ago, President Joe Biden announced that his administration is requiring all federal workers to get vaccinated, or be subjected to minimum weekly testing in addition to other public safety measures. Biden has not signaled that he would impose a national vaccine mandate.
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