Almost a quarter of U.S. hospitals are requiring all workers to get the COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of employment.
According to the American Hospital Association (AHA), around 1,500 hospitals have set vaccine mandates, reported CNN.
The vaccine requirements are controversial and have received backlash from employees, unions and even some governments.
Federally, it is legal for employers to demand their staff to get vaccinated, though individual states can – and have – passed laws banning vaccine mandates in the workplace.
Health care workers at nearly 25 percent of U.S. hospitals are now required to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The requirements are legal, though seven states have passed laws banning them. Pictured: a London based doctor administers the AstraZeneca vaccine to a patient
The first major hospital system to institute this type of mandate was Houston Methodist Hospital system in Texas.
The hospital’s decision was met with backlash from employees, and 117 filed a joint lawsuit against the hospital.
Their effort was in vain with the lawsuit thrown out and more than 100 employees were either fired or resigned.
NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, in New York City, also set a similar mandate, giving all of its employees until September 1 to get the shots or be terminated.
After the New York hospital announced its decision, 1199SEIU, a union with more than 450,000 members across six states and the District of Columbia, announced it would oppose these types of measures.
‘We are not in agreement with a mandate of the COVID-19 vaccine,’ George Gresham, president of 1199SEIU, said in a statement in June.
‘A hard-handed approach will not work and will only create greater frustration for the healthcare heroes who have been battling this pandemic every day for the last 15 months.
‘We agree that vaccination is an important tool to help us move forward, but mandating vaccination is not, nor will it ever, be the answer.’
These types of mandates are not legal everywhere, however.
Benefis Health in Great Falls, Montana (pictured), attempted to put a vaccine mandate in place in April, though the state government passed a law preventing them from doing so
In seven states, Arizona, Arkansas, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Tennessee and Utah, employers are not allowed to force their employees to get the vaccine to keep their jobs.
‘I cannot imagine passing any worse law than [banning vaccine mandates],’ John Goodnow, CEO of Benefis Health in Great Falls, Montana, told CNN.
‘Imagine if that would have been passed back when we were fighting polio, or smallpox before that.’
Benefis attempted to put a vaccine mandate in place in April, but its attempt was blocked by state legislators.
These types of mandates are often enacted to protect hospitals from suffering massive Covid outbreaks among staff that can reduce the facility’s capacity to treat patients.
If one member of the hospital staff contracts the virus, he or she could potentially transmit it to any coworkers they interact with at the hospital.
A study from the Netherlands found that health care workers were more likely to transmit the virus to one another than contract the virus from patients.
With many hospitals already facing staff shortages, Covid outbreak make an already dire situation worse.
“Knowing there are solutions out there that can help prevent this from happening, like simple vaccination, makes you frustrated,” said Dr Fernando Caceres, a pulmonary specialist at Billings Clinic in Billings, Montana, told CNN.
California went the opposite route of some other states, with Gov Gavin Newsome announcing on July 26 that all state health care workers would either have to get vaccinated or be subjected to regular testing to keep their jobs.
New York and Washington states have set similar mandates as well.
Despite the controversy over the mandates, unvaccinated health care workers are a loud minority among their peers.
The American Medical Association announced in June that over 96 percent of doctors were already fully vaccinated against COVID.
Nearly half of the remaining unvaccinated at the time also reported that they planned to receive the shots soon.