Leading groups for doctors, nurses and other health care professionals are calling for COVID-19 vaccines to be mandated for health care workers as vaccinations lag amid the spread of the delta variant.
"Due to the recent COVID-19 surge and the availability of safe and effective vaccines, our health care organizations and societies advocate that all health care and long-term care employers require their workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine," the American Medical Association, American Nurses Association and more than 50 other health care groups said in a statement on Monday. "This is the logical fulfillment of the ethical commitment of all health care workers to put patients as well as residents of long-term care facilities first and take all steps necessary to ensure their health and well-being."
Despite working with vulnerable people, many staff at long-term care facilities are not vaccinated. ProPublica reported last week that only 59 percent of workers at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities had at least one shot, citing government data.
The new call comes as the delta variant fuels an increase in cases in the U.S., primarily among the unvaccinated.
As the vaccination rate lags, many experts say mandates from employers could play a bigger role in boosting the number of people getting the shots, as the role of incentives and persuasion could be fading in usefulness.
"Unfortunately, many health care and long-term care personnel remain unvaccinated," the groups said in Monday's statement, which was first reported by The Washington Post. "As we move towards full FDA [Food and Drug Administration] approval of the currently available vaccines, all health care workers should get vaccinated for their own health, and to protect their colleagues, families, residents of long-term care facilities and patients."
Full FDA approval is also seen as a key step in encouraging more people to get the vaccine.
The health care groups also said they hope all employers will require vaccines for their workers.
"As the health care community leads the way in requiring vaccines for our employees, we hope all other employers across the country will follow our lead and implement effective policies to encourage vaccination," they said. "The health and safety of U.S. workers, families, communities, and the nation depends on it."