Texas nurses join national call for mandatory vaccinations for health care workers

In a statement released on Sunday, the Texas Nurses Association (TNA) joined over 50 other medical advocacy organizations calling for health facilities to require their employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19. TNA is the only state-level organization to join the national declaration, which includes the signatures of the American Nursing Association, the American Public Health Association, and the National Pharmaceutical Association.

 

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While the Houston Methodist hospital system recently implemented a vaccine mandate for its employees — resulting in the departure of over 150 employees who opposed it — most facilities haven’t enforced the controversial mandate.

The organizations argue that this vaccination mandate would significantly improve the safety of both staff and patients, particularly unvaccinated children and the immunocompromised.

The statement’s introduction called getting vaccinated to protect patients an “ethical commitment.”

“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.”

The plea comes as the COVID-19 Delta variant sweeps across the country, resulting in case levels similar to last summer’s surge. Texas currently has the second highest COVID-19 hospitalization rate, behind only Florida.

The recent uptick in hospitalizations has placed increased pressure on nurses and other health care workers. Cindy Zolnierek, Ph.D., president of TNA, said: 

“Nurses are burned out. ICU units are full. We are all tired of this; nurses are tired of this.

We are asking Texans to do their part to help beat the virus. If you can get vaccinated, do that as soon as possible. The virus is real. The vaccine is free, safe and effective. Even if you get COVID after vaccination, the vaccine can help keep you out of the hospital.”

Nurses also face a largely unvaccinated inpatient population. While Texas hospitals don’t provide reports on their patient’s vaccination status, remarks from hospital leaders suggest the majority of new COVID-19 patients in the state are unvaccinated. Stephen Love, president and CEO of the Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council (DFWHC), said most new patients in his organization’s facilities haven’t received the vaccine.

As of Monday, DFWHC’s hospitals had 1,233 COVID-19 patients, occupying 8.66% of the region’s total bed capacity, according to Love.

Dr. Desmar Walkes, Travis County’s health authority, said most new hospitalizations in his region have also been from unvaccinated people, the Texas Tribune reports.

The statement compared COVID-19 vaccination requirements to already existing influenza, hepatitis B, and pertussis vaccine requirements for health workers.