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Doctors chime in on mandated vaccines for healthcare groups

'We take an oath to do no harm'
Posted at 11:55 PM, Jul 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-27 09:10:52-04

(KGTV) -- On Monday, 50 major medical groups from across the country announced that they will now be mandating vaccines to all healthcare, long-term care, and Title 38 employees. That group includes dentists, physicians, nurses, optometrists, and physician assistants.

According to Johns Hopkins University, only 50% of the United States is vaccinated. With many still unvaccinated, along with spikes in cases, and the more serious Delta variant, health officials are now wanting to keep themselves accountable.

“Around 90% of the cases that we are seeing are in unvaccinated people," shares Dr. Christian Ramers M.D., M.P.H, an Infectious Disease Specialist as well as Chief of Population Health at Family Health Centers in San Diego.

Ramers believes it is that statistic that has pushed 50 of the nation’s top medical groups to require their employees to be vaccinated.

He says it simply, "We take an oath to do no harm."

“Theoretically this should be such an easy win for us," shares Dr. Ramers, "It should be a tool that we use to prevent covid, to prevent outbreaks in our clinics, and to protect our patients. And I think that healthcare organizations are just getting a little fed up.”

“We don’t go into this industry to make people sick. And that’s the situation that we are in right now," he furthers, "And I think you are seeing public health leaders and policy makers get a little bit more frustrated, because part of why we are here is because we didn’t get high enough in our vaccine rates.”

The President of the San Diego Medical Society, Dr. Sergio Flores agrees, “We have to show leadership that the healthcare community that has been struggling so much for the last 18 months is stepping up to the plate and having vaccinations. Almost 95% of physicians have been vaccinated, nurses are up to the 60% range, so it’s important to have all healthcare workers be vaccinated.”

And it's not just the top of healthcare that are implementing this mandate. Veteran Affairs announced Monday that they will be doing the same for their Title 38 employees, which makes them the first federal agency to impose this mandate.

Dr. Ramers shares, "VA hospitals have an incredibly vulnerable patient population. Must veterans that get admitted into the hospital are older and they are sort of 60’s and some comorbid conditions. Guess what that sets you up to die of covid."

Gov. Newsom of California, also announced on Monday that starting August 9th, the state will begin to crack down, “246 thousand Californians are state employees, 246 thousand Californians are state employees should be vaccinated and if they are not vaccinated and cannot verify that they are vaccinated, we require they get tested.”

California's Department of Veteran Affairs released this statement to ABC10 News in response to Monday's developments:
CalVet shares the concern about the need to protect veterans and staff from the ongoing spread of COVID-19; the most effective protection is the vaccine.
In alignment with Governor Newsom’s announcement today requiring all state employees and healthcare workers show proof of vaccine or be tested regularly, CalVet will work to ensure it meets the requirement. Currently, among CalVet’s eight Veterans Homes, over 70 percent of the Homes’ staff and over 90 percent of the Homes’ residents are fully vaccinated.

While some believe that mandating a dose will be met with push back, Dr. Ramers says requiring vaccines is not unprecedented, “I am required as a healthcare provider to get an influenza vaccine so that I don’t get my patients sick, and if I don’t I have to sign paperwork and wear a mask the entire winter," he shares another example, "and our children have to get vaccinated before they start school, so that they don’t spread vaccine preventable illnesses in the classroom.”

The COVID-19 vaccine is currently still under emergency use only, which has been sourced for many as the reason for hesitancy with the vaccine. Dr. Ramers believes for some, that hesitation may start to dissipate, "Pfizer has already applied with the FDA for full approval. They have submitted that extra data that the FDA likes to see before full approval. The FDA has to rule by January, but I have been told that it is going to happen within a month or two.”

The big question with these mandates are how this may hold up in the courts. Dr. Ramers expresses that it is possible to see other clinics follow suit, as health of the patient, will be priority.

“This is going to get tricky in a legal sense. There have already been a couple of cases in Indiana and Houston Methodist Hospital, where the hospital said nope you have to get vaccinated, people sued and they lost. Because this is a public health issue, you know you can’t come to work and get your patients sick that just does not sit well with anybody," Dr. Ramers says.

While the mandates affect those who care for others, doctors say it’s a community effort, to keep all of us safe, "Let’s make individual decisions that are smart, if you don’t want to get covid, protect yourself with a vaccine, or protect yourself with a mask, or stay away from other people and don’t breathe the air they are breathing.”