The American Hospital Association (AHA) — which represents nearly 5,000 hospitals and healthcare systems in the U.S. — publicly affirmed its support for COVID-19 vaccine mandates for healthcare workers in a statement released on Wednesday.
The announcement comes only a few days after a federal judge decided that Indiana University’s vaccine requirements will remain in place despite a lawsuit and challenges from students.
The AHA “supports hospitals and health systems that adopt mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policies for health care personnel, with local factors and circumstances shaping whether and how these policies are implemented,” they wrote in the statement.
While the AHA is the largest U.S.-based healthcare organization thus far to advocate for vaccine requirements, support for mandates has been growing stronger and louder in recent months — especially given the rise in Delta variant cases.
In a consensus statement from July 13, the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) and a coalition of six other medical organizations representing professionals from a range of specialties offered an endorsement of vaccine requirements. A legal analysis presented in the statement asserted that federal civil rights laws “do not prevent an employer from requiring employees to be vaccinated for COVID-19, subject to a limited set of legally required exceptions.”
The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) was quick to follow suit, issuing a statement of its own a few days later, urging institutions to require immunization. And, on the day of the AHA announcement, America’s Essential Hospitals — a smaller organization that represents approximately 300 healthcare systems in the U.S. — also published a statement encouraging hospitals to require vaccinations.
Many hospitals and healthcare networks across the country were already enforcing vaccine mandates for their employees during the weeks and months leading up to the AHA’s statement. Almost always, the decision to do so has been followed by intense resistance from some staff members; regardless, hospitals have stood firm on requiring COVID-19 inoculations.
After Houston Methodist became the first hospital to put a mandate in place, 117 employees filed a lawsuit against the seven-hospital system. The case was later thrown out by a federal judge, and 150 workers were ultimately fired for not getting the vaccine. Similarly, in mid-July, the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston terminated five employees after they, too, did not meet the hospital’s June 30 deadline to get vaccinated.
Just this week, it’s been reported that New Jersey hospital system RWJBarnabas Health — which treats 3 million patients each year and includes 11 acute care hospitals and three children’s hospitals, according to its website — ousted six unvaccinated supervisors after they failed to comply with the institution’s mandate. However, 99.7% of the system’s staff members at the supervisor level and above are “fully vaccinated or received medical and religious exemptions or a deferral,” the company said in a statement to ABC News.
Last Updated July 22, 2021