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New ACP Vaccination Policies Support Vaccination Mandates During Public Health Emergency
ACP announced new policies for the public and health care workers supporting recommendations and standards of ACIP, CDC and the National Vaccine Advisory Committee
Oct. 1, 2021 (ACP) – The American College of Physicians announced new policies in September in support of promoting vaccines in the interest of public health, including that employers, schools, public agencies and organizations receiving federal funding may require proof of immunization against highly transmissible diseases during a public health emergency.
ACP is also recommending that all health care workers be immunized for the safety of patients and the public, except in limited cases. “Vaccines are safe and effective; they help prevent serious illness, hospitalizations and death. Increasing the vaccination rate for COVID-19 is foundational in helping to bring infection rates under control and to keep them under control,” Dr. George M. Abraham, president of ACP, said in a press release. “We need to ensure that as many members of our society are vaccinated as possible to protect the most vulnerable among us.”
According to Abraham, it is important for ACP to speak out in conjunction with other prominent groups that advocate for patients. “We can use our collective strength to make an emphatic statement,” he said. “Colleagues and patients have told us about how collective statements on public health matters have led other private and governmental organizations to follow suit.”
The ACP Board of Regents ratified these vaccination policies in regard to immunization of the public on Sept. 14:
- ACP supports immunization of the public according to the recommendations and standards established by the U.S. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), National Vaccine Advisory Committee (NVAC), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “The only way to bring an end to the epidemic is by vaccination and when a sufficient number of people have received vaccines to create ‘herd immunity,’” Abraham said. “There is a reluctance for people to get vaccinated, in large part due to disinformation and misinformation, even though there is an abundance of vaccine in the country.”
- States should eliminate all immunization exceptions except for those addressing clear medical contraindications.
- Employers and schools may require proof of vaccination of recommended immunizations for highly transmissible diseases that pose a substantial risk for transmission resulting in severe illness, hospitalizations and deaths, which could be prevented or reduced by requiring safe and effective vaccinations. ACP opposes state laws, regulations or executive orders that aim to prohibit these requirements.
- During a pandemic or other public health emergency for highly transmissible diseases that might result in severe illness, hospitalizations and deaths, which could be prevented or reduced by requiring safe and effective vaccinations, ACP supports appropriate federal and state regulations to expand vaccination rates, including requiring employers and government agencies to mandate that their employees show proof of age-appropriate vaccination and requiring organizations that receive government funding to show such proof of vaccination by their employees and contractors.
ACP acknowledges that applicable federal laws and regulations that recognize religious exemptions as well as other relevant equal opportunity, anti-discriminatory and employment laws need to be considered.
- Individuals subject to immunization requirements should first have meaningful opportunities to voluntarily accept vaccination, and employers should remove barriers to employees getting vaccinated. Actions may include offering paid time off to get vaccinated and any additional time off that may be required because of short-term side effects associated with vaccination without charging that against their usual paid leave benefits.
- In light of the historical and continued mistrust of health care institutions by individuals from marginalized populations subject to discrimination and racism, ACP recommends that employers -- working in concert with public health officials and trusted community leaders -- commit to ongoing engagement, outreach, education and deployment of resources to support informed vaccination decision-making.
ACP has also ratified policies about the immunization of health care workers:
- All health care workers should be immunized at the intervals recommended by ACIP of CDC against transmissible infectious diseases unless there is a clear medical contraindication or other exemption under applicable employment law. “As health care personnel, we owe it to our patients and our colleagues to keep them safe,” said Abraham.
- ACP supports requiring all health care workers to be vaccinated as a condition of employment against highly transmissible diseases that pose a substantial risk for transmission as recommended by ACIP of the CDC. This may include vaccines with emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Some health care workers cannot be vaccinated because a clear medical contraindication exists, and these individuals should be exempted from employer vaccine requirements.
- ACP encourages health care employers to develop mechanisms to facilitate and support staff in becoming vaccinated, including education, outreach and resources to counter vaccine misinformation.
- ACP recommends that employers and health care professional societies and organizations commit to ongoing engagement, outreach, education and provision of resources to all including historically marginalized groups to support informed vaccination decision-making.
“Throughout the pandemic, physicians and other health care workers have repeatedly demonstrated their dedication to caring for the patients who need them,” Abraham said. “Vaccination is a critical part of caring for patients, their families and loved ones.”