A leading hospitals advocate has officially endorsed mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for healthcare workers.

“To protect all patients, communities and personnel from the known and substantial risks of COVID-19, the American Hospital Association strongly urges the vaccination of all healthcare personnel,” the organization said in a statement released Wednesday.

Vaccination protects personnel at work and in the community, and reduces the risk of unintentionally bringing the disease to work and transmitting it to their patients and peers, AHA said.

AHA said current scientific evidence underpins its position, including the findings that:

  • COVID-19 vaccinations are safe.
  • COVID-19 vaccinations are effective at reducing both the risk of becoming infected and spreading the infection to others.
  • COVID-19 has a significant risk of transmission both before the onset of symptoms and in the absence of symptoms. These risks are substantially higher among unvaccinated individuals.
  • Among unvaccinated individuals, COVID-19 infections pose a substantial risk of severe illness and death and may lead to long-term adverse impacts to health. These risks are higher among those individuals with certain underlying health conditions, like many patients in hospitals or who are seen in hospital-based ambulatory settings.

Healthcare systems that adopt a mandatory vaccination policy should weigh local factors and circumstances to decide how these policies should be implemented, as well as federal health agency guidelines, AHA added. The organization encourages healthcare administrators to offer exemptions for medical reasons and accommodations consistent with Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines. These include sincerely held religious beliefs, practices or observances. 

Among other suggestions, they also urge administrators to:

  • Follow federal requirements and guidelines on which individuals are eligible and should be prioritized for vaccination; 
  • Continue to provide vaccine education to encourage staff to obtain the vaccine voluntarily; and
  • Offer scheduling flexibility and/or time off to ensure personnel have time to obtain the vaccine and recover from any side effects.