New Vaccine Mandates Being Rolled Out

Health & Gender Policy Brief # 119 | By: S. Bhimji | July 28, 2021

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Photo taken from: National Geographic

Policy Summary

A few months ago, Methodist Hospital in Texas mandated the covid vaccine for all its healthcare workers. About 150 healthcare workers including nurses refused citing a variety of non-medical reasons. Methodist fired them all; the workers filed a lawsuit and the case went to the Texas Federal court where a judge ruled that in private practice, the employees have to follow the rules of the employer. If they do not agree, they are welcome to find a job elsewhere.

Since then many hospitals have followed the Methodist example making vaccines mandatory for their healthcare workers.

Fast forward, with the dreaded spread of the delta variant, some governmental agencies are following the same Methodist Hospital’s footsteps.

Just a few days ago, The Dept of Veterans Affairs, which operates one of the nation’s largest healthcare systems, announced that it is making a new vaccine mandate for its employees in New Your City, California, the Mayo Clinic, and many other VA hospitals. The VA is the first federal agency to make this mandate signaling what many experts below will soon become a nationwide trend.

And the VA is not alone; the White House is also supporting the call by Medical Associations that are mandating vaccines for their healthcare workers.

In the face of the rapid growth of the delta variant, Both the State of California and the city of New York are giving the workers a choice- Get vaccinated or face weekly testing.

Policy Analysis

Healthcare leaders say this recent move by the VA is perhaps the best way to fight the coronavirus. It is hoped that this mandate will encourage millions of Americans to get vaccinated. Seven months since the covid vaccines were approved for emergency use, there are still millions of Americans  who remain unvaccinated.

The VA mandate will apply to more than 100,00 front-line workers; in NY city it will apply to over 45,000 city contractors and employees, and in California, it will apply to more than 2.2 million state employees and healthcare workers.

This is perhaps the tipping point in the fight against covid 19. Despite all the incentives, nearly 45%-50% of Americans have adamantly refused to get vaccinated but now if they want to remain employed, they will have to make a choice.

As of July 21, 2021, the delta variant accounted for nearly 61% of cases, many of which have occurred in unvaccinated individuals. In most cases, the infection has been severe enough to require hospitalization.


Photo taken from: Becker’s Hospital Review

With the schools set to open in about a month, it is time for the Government to start being aggressive about the vaccine protocol.

Nationwide the number of covid infections have rapidly increased from about 13,000 cases per day at the beginning of July to nearly 54,000/day in the middle of July. Experts in infectious disease are urging people to get vaccinated since the shots can prevent severe infection and even death.

For the past few months, healthcare workers have been asking the government to make the vaccine mandatory and finally, with the VA mandate, the rates of vaccination may start to increase.

But despite the urgency of the situation, the Biden Administration has said it will not impose a national mandate on the vaccine but will support employers who will have the absolute right to create new requirements for their workers. It also is considering mandating vaccinations for all federal workers.

The number of healthcare workers who remain unvaccinated varies from 20-30% but the majority of them are nursing home staff, nurses, and a few doctors who look after patients at risk for covid.

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Photo taken from: Fortune

The key reason why some hospitals have avoided vaccine mandates is the fear of litigation or defection of staff. But with the Federal Court ruling for Methodist hospital in Texas, most hospitals have started to adopt the same approach. As usual, unions that represent nurses and other healthcare staff argue against vaccine mandates but provide no valid reasons.

However, outside of nurses, almost all healthcare workers including pharmacists, therapists, doctors, and healthcare leaders are encouraging vaccine mandates before the delta variant overwhelms the healthcare system. Similarly, most universities and colleges are also imposing vaccine mandates for their students.

An argument in favor of vaccination is that with millions of Americans already vaccinated, it is now known that the vaccines are very safe and should not be a reason for refusal.

Administration of the covid vaccine has not caused the sky to fall and the unvaccinated individuals should take note. With courts upholding vaccine mandates, the unvaccinated will have to make a choice – have a job or stay at home. The nation has run out of patience with these folks.

Engagement Resources​

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