The Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) opposes the passage of H.R. 497, Freedom for Health Care Workers Act, which, if enacted, would rescind the requirement of COVID-19 vaccination for Medicare- and Medicaid- certified providers and suppliers. This bill would also prohibit the Department of Health and Human Services from creating similar rules in the future.
“Scientific studies have consistently shown that getting vaccinated and staying up to date on vaccines is an effective and safe way to protect people from serious infections due to COVID-19 and other viruses like influenza,” said Deborah Yokoe, MD, MPH, FSHEA, FIDSA, President of the SHEA Board of Trustees. “Promoting healthcare personnel vaccination is a crucial component of the strategies that healthcare facilities should use to protect patients, employees and visitors while working to avoid the staff shortages due to illness that continue to affect facilities.”
In addition, because the bill would prohibit similar vaccine requirements for healthcare personnel in the future, the benefits of vaccination for diseases such as influenza will not be realized for patients and healthcare personnel. Research shows that prior to the pandemic, rates of routine vaccinations among healthcare personnel were suboptimal. For flu vaccination, when healthcare employers instituted policies of influenza vaccination as a condition of employment, compliance rose to 94% compared to 69% in organizations without a requirement. Recently, during the 2021-22 season, 93% of personnel working in facilities where the employer required vaccination, reported receiving at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose.
In 2021, SHEA published a consensus statement supporting requirements of healthcare personnel to be vaccinated against COVID-19. It was developed by SHEA along with six other organizations representing more than 30,000 medical professionals working in infectious diseases, infection prevention, pharmacy, pediatrics and long-term care. “SHEA supports ongoing efforts to encourage a fully vaccinated healthcare workforce. Data clearly show that vaccination is safe and reduces the burden of infection in communities, and among healthcare personnel and patients,” said David J. Weber, MD, MPH, Vice President of the SHEA Board of Trustees and lead author of the consensus statement on vaccination as a condition of employment in healthcare.
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The Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America is a professional society representing more than 2,000 physicians and other health care professionals around the world who possess expertise and passion for health care epidemiology, infection prevention and antimicrobial stewardship. The society’s work improves public health by establishing infection-prevention measures and supporting antibiotic stewardship among health care providers, hospitals and health systems. This is accomplished by leading research studies, translating research into clinical practice, developing evidence-based policies, optimizing antibiotic stewardship and advancing the field of health care epidemiology.
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