A growing number of hospitals are requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for front-line workers

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Photo via U.S. Department of Labor/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

In response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic—and the latest phase of increased case numbers—vaccinations are now required for front-line workers in over 70 hospital systems and other health care providers throughout the nation, including in New York.

The list also includes the Department of Veterans Affairs, which, according to the Washington Post, has now become the first federal agency to require employees to get vaccines. The Washington Post article hints that other U.S. government entities may follow suit, as the Biden Administration has been mulling the move as part of an overall strategy to get the U.S. past the pandemic. 

The article also notes that a number of hospital systems, including the prestigious Mayo Clinic, are moving toward requiring employees who have not already been inoculated to do so. 

“You can call it a tipping point,” said Mark Ghaly, the health secretary of California, pointing out that millions of people have declined to get vaccinated despite extraordinary efforts including appeals from public officials and incentives including lotteries in Ohio and gun giveaways in West Virginia. “For so many Californians and Americans, this might be the time to get vaccinated.”

A number of hospital systems in Colorado have announced vaccination requirements, according to 9News in Denver. That includes UC Health, which will require all employees, providers, volunteers, and partners to be vaccinated by Oct. 1 or face termination. UC Health also announced that each employee who is fully vaccinated by Aug. 22 will receive a $500 bonus. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) announced July 28 that vaccinations will be required for employees of New York state-run hospitals. If vaccines are not obtained by Labor Day, employees will be subjected to weekly COVID-19 testing, according to the New York Times. That follows Mayor Bill de Blasio’s announcement of a similar policy for New York City’s 300,000 workers, as well as a policy already in existence for staff and faculty members at the State University of New York and the City University of New York. 

Even Texas is seeing one of its major health care providers join the trend. Baylor Scott & White, the largest nonprofit hospital system in the state, is requiring its more than 40,000 employees to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 1. The Dallas Morning News noted that just over 70% of Baylor Scott & White workers in North and Central Texas are already vaccinated. Its vaccination policy, similar to UC Health’s, will extend to “tens of thousands” of additional people, including all providers on the medical staff, volunteers, students, vendors, and contractors. 

The Dallas Morning News article noted that more than 70 health care providers have now adopted a similar policy since Houston Methodist announced a mandate back in March. The delta variant’s transmissibility, paired with its spread among unvaccinated people, is driving the trend of hospital systems seeking protection for their employees, whether or not they’re in direct contact with patients. 

“This is real, this is killing people, and the price we pay is measured in lost lives,” Baylor’s chief medical officer, Dr. Alejandro ‘Alex’ Arroliga, said. “That’s why we have such urgency.”

“Most of the counties in Texas right now have either a substantial or high transmission rate,” he added. “So we better be concerned because we will have a surge [in cases]. And the reason? Because a substantial portion of the population is not vaccinated.”

Sources: Washington Post, 9News, New York Times, Dallas Morning News

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