The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has had devastating effects on people worldwide. The development of a vaccine against COVID-19 provides hope that the pandemic can finally be contained. However, there are controversies surrounding how the vaccine should be administered. Some individuals argue that everyone should be allowed to decide whether or not to be vaccinated, while others contend that some groups, such as healthcare workers, should be required to be vaccinated. There should be a vaccine mandate for professionals in the healthcare field to ensure public safety, protect the professionals, and increase the overall rate of vaccination.
Medical professionals should be required to take the COVID-19 vaccine to ensure patient safety. Patient safety is one of the top priorities of healthcare provision. Healthcare should not be dispensed in a manner that endangers patients. Healthcare workers (HCWs) interact closely with patients daily in hospitals or other facilities. If a doctor, nurse, or any other medical staff has COVID-19, they could easily transmit it to their patients.
Since healthcare workers interact with many patients a day, they are likely to spread the virus to many people (Scobie et al. 1284). For instance, a nurse may visit thirty patients a day during their shift. If they have the virus, there is a high probability of transmitting it to some or all of these patients. The patients could then transmit the virus to others in the hospital, leading to an outbreak in the particular facility. Therefore, the vaccination of healthcare workers against coronavirus is a patient safety concern. To prevent the fast spread of coronavirus, public health officials should be required to be vaccinated.
Healthcare workers should also be required to take the COVID-19 vaccine to protect themselves from infection. Front-line workers are at a greater risk of contracting the coronavirus compared to the general population. According to a study conducted between March and April 2020, the probability of contracting the virus increased by 11.4% for healthcare workers (Nguyen et al. 477). While the prevalence of COVID-19 was recorded as 242 cases for every 100,000 people in the general public, that of HCWs was 2747 cases per 100,000 workers (Nguyen et al., 2020). Additionally, many front-line workers died last year from the coronavirus.
There has been an average of 115,500 HCWs deaths between January 2020 and May 2021 (World Health Organization). This number is a conservative estimate since some deaths from coronavirus were not captured as COVID-related. Any job is accompanied by occupational risks, which are shouldered by the workers. For healthcare workers, contracting a disease as infectious as COVID-19 is one of the occupational hazards. To protect themselves from being infected by the virus and possibly dying, all healthcare workers should be vaccinated against it.
Another justification for instructing public health officials to be vaccinated is to prevent the healthcare system from being overwhelmed. If HCWs do not get vaccinated against the virus and subsequently contract it, there will be a shortage of medical staff. Currently, the country does not have enough HCWs since many have died due to the pandemic. Consequently, hospitals and other healthcare facilities are understaffed and have high HCW to patient ratios.
When workers become infected, they cannot go to work, leaving even fewer HCWs to care for patients. Another factor that has caused healthcare facilities to be overwhelmed is HCW to HCW transmission. The social distancing between healthcare workers is rendered almost impossible by the nature of the work they do, which requires teamwork. Consequently, high levels of HCW to HCW transmission were recorded during a study conducted in 2020 (Schneider et al. 5). A localized epidemic of COVID-19 means the affected healthcare facility must either be closed or be forced to operate at a lower capacity. Healthcare-associated outbreaks of COVID-19 that burden the system can be mitigated by directing medical staff to be vaccinated.
All healthcare workers should be vaccinated against coronavirus as an act of solidarity with the profession. The provision of healthcare is a field governed by many standards and regulations. Vaccination is in line with these professional medical principles and standards. For instance, HCWs are mandated by the principle of non-maleficence to not harm. When they fail to be vaccinated, they put the health and lives of patients at risk, thereby violating the principle of non-maleficence. Additionally, medical professionals, such as nurses, are required by their professional code of conduct to act in a manner that promotes the profession.
Refusing to be vaccinated does not promote the nursing profession. Many people are skeptical of healthcare workers who reject the coronavirus vaccine. Some HCWs have been labeled “COVID-deniers” and “anti-vaxxers” for denying the existence of the coronavirus and refusing to be vaccinated, respectively (Zadrozny and Collins). When healthcare professionals deny the basic tenets of modern medicine, it reduces the trust of the public in the profession. Therefore, all health officials should be vaccinated against COVID-19 to uphold professional standards and retain public trust.
Another reason why all healthcare workers should be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 is to reduce vaccine hesitancy in the general population. Vaccine hesitancy is defined as the delayed acceptance or complete refusal of vaccines despite their availability (Khubchandani et al.). It is a major concern in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. In a survey of 1878 people, 52% reported they were very likely to be vaccinated, 27% somewhat likely, 15% not likely, and 7% will not be vaccinated (Khubchandani et al.). Although the number of people who are willing to accept the vaccine is relatively high, the number of those unsure about vaccination and those who completely reject it is disconcerting. One strategy to increase vaccine acceptance is increasing communication from healthcare workers.
While the internet and large health organizations are sometimes distrusted, HCWs are generally considered reliable sources of information. They can run campaigns to boost COVID-19 vaccination, especially among hesitant communities. Additionally, members of society are likely to embrace vaccination when they know medical professionals have been vaccinated. All healthcare workers should be vaccinated to increase vaccine uptake within society.
As a consequence of healthcare workers being vaccinated and urging others to do the same, the coronavirus pandemic can be successfully managed or eradicated. The efforts of public health officials could help in the management or even eradication of the coronavirus pandemic. This will be realized when societies achieve community or “herd” immunity. Community immunity is achieved when a sufficient number of people are immune to a disease, either from prior exposure or vaccination, thereby protecting those who lack immunity (Khubchandani et al.). To achieve community immunity, a large proportion of the community must be vaccinated.
Since the COVID-19 vaccine is relatively new, vaccination for certain populations is not yet fully approved. Examples include individuals with weak immunities and those with severe allergies. These members of the community rely on the immunity of others to be safe from the virus. Since HCWs are well-suited to influence mass vaccination, they could help make society more resilient against the coronavirus. The first step in championing mass vaccination to develop community immunity is for them to be vaccinated.
On the other side of the argument, some people argue that healthcare workers should not be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Some public health officials who reject the vaccine do so on the grounds of it is unsafe. They claim that the vaccine causes severe medical reactions, life-long disabilities, and even death (Zadrozny and Collins). They cite cases of vaccinated people who have died from the coronavirus.
Individuals who protest the vaccine mandate claim that the vaccine has been developed too fast, and it is impossible to develop an effective vaccine hurriedly. The quickness with which the COVID-19 vaccine was developed and made available could be a sign of it not being safe. Other safety concerns arise from the fact that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has not cleared certain vulnerable populations for vaccination. They contend that if the vaccine was completely safe, it would be administered to everyone regardless of age or underlying conditions. Due to safety concerns, some people argue that healthcare workers should not be required to be vaccinated.
The protest against vaccine mandates also takes a political viewpoint. Opponents of the vaccine order claim that it is unconstitutional. The Bill of Rights grants citizens the right to bodily autonomy (Zadrozny and Collins). This means that people can make decisions about their bodies as long as they are in the right capacity mind. Some people argue that vaccine mandates for healthcare workers violate the right to autonomy (Zadrozny and Collins).
When the government is allowed to decide when to grant citizens their rights and when to restrict them, it will abuse this power to its advantage. It should not be permissible for the government to dictate what people do with their bodies, including whether they should be vaccinated (Zadrozny and Collins). Additionally, the constitution grants people the freedom of speech and expression. Individuals are permitted to express their opinions without fear of backlash from anyone. This includes the opinion that the vaccine against the coronavirus is unsafe and ineffective. Hence, it is illegal for employers to fire HCWs who refuse to abide by the COVID-19 vaccination order.
While safety concerns about the vaccine are understandable, they have been debunked. It is expected that some people have questions about the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine. In some cases, the vaccine has side effects, such as fatigue, headaches, pain at the injection site, and fever. This may cause some individuals, including healthcare workers, to have reservations about being vaccinated. However, these symptoms usually last for a maximum of four days. They do not cause any debilitating illnesses, as some conspiracies suggest. Additionally, the CDC estimates that vaccinated individuals are ten times less likely to be admitted for COVID-19 (Scobie et al. 1286).
Unvaccinated people have died at eleven times the rate of fully vaccinated individuals due to the delta variant of the virus (Dyer). This is a testament to the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine. It was developed relatively fast because the virus is highly contagious and killed a lot of people in 2020 before a vaccine was found. Although uneasiness about the safety of the coronavirus vaccine is normal, the theories that the vaccine is unsafe are unfounded.
The other argument against vaccine mandates for healthcare workers questions their constitutionality. Although citizens have certain rights, these freedoms are not absolute. The government has the power to curtail the rights of an individual to safeguard public safety. Where the choice of a person puts others at risk, those rights can be suspended in the interest of the majority. When healthcare workers refuse to be vaccinated, they endanger the lives of their colleagues and those of patients to whom they provide care. Therefore, it is legal and acceptable for the government to issue a directive for all healthcare workers to be vaccinated.
In summary, vaccine mandates are necessary for healthcare workers. They are the most exposed group of people, and vaccination is needed to ensure their protection. Vaccination also promotes public health because it curtails transmission of the virus from public health officials to the patients they interact with or their coworkers. If too many HCWs contract the disease, the healthcare system will be overwhelmed even further, considering that many health workers died before the vaccine was found. Health professionals should be required to be vaccinated to reduce vaccine hesitancy, which is a key step towards the development of community immunity.
Finally, the vaccine has been proven to be effective and safe. There are numerous reasons why healthcare workers should be vaccinated, all of which improve public health and reduce morbidity and mortality of the coronavirus.
Dyer, Owen. “Covid-19: Unvaccinated face 11 times risk of death from delta variant, CDC data show.” The BMJ, 2021. Web.
Khubchandani, Jagdish, et al. “COVID-19 vaccination hesitancy in the United States: A rapid national assessment.” Journal of Community Health, vol. 46, no. 2, 2021, pp. 270-277. Web.
Nguyen, Long H., et al. “Risk of COVID-19 among front-line health-care workers and the general community: A prospective cohort study.” The Lancet Public Health, vol. 5, no. 9, 2020, pp. 475-483. Web.
Schneider, Sandra, et al. “SARS-Coronavirus-2 cases in healthcare workers may not regularly originate from patient care: Lessons from a university hospital on the underestimated risk of healthcare worker to healthcare worker transmission.” Antimicrobial Resistance & Infection Control, vol. 9, no. 192, 2020, pp. 1-7. Web.
Scobie, Heather M., et al. “Monitoring incidence of covid-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, by vaccination status—13 US jurisdictions, 2021.” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, vol. 70, no. 37, 2021, p. 1284- 1290. Web.
World Health Organization. “Health and care worker deaths during COVID-19.“. 2021. Web.
Zadrozny, Brandy, and Collins, Ben. “As vaccine mandates spread, protests follow — some spurred by nurses.” NBC News. 2021. Web.