AMA calls OSHA rule an important tool as cases and hospitalizations rise

The American Medical Association (AMA) issued a letter backing the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Covid-19 Vaccination and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard requiring mandatory Covid-19 vaccination for workers.

In its letter to OSHA’s assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health Douglas L. Parker, JD, the AMA wrote that “we must take every action possible to reduce the impacts of this deadly virus and reduce the ongoing strains on our health care system. The fastest and most direct path out of this pandemic is through vaccination. Billions of Covid-19 vaccines have been administered globally and these vaccines have proven overwhelmingly safe with minimal risk of adverse events and have demonstrated tremendous power to keep individuals safe from the most serious outcomes of this disease. With very limited medical contraindications to receiving the vaccine, eligible individuals should get vaccinated. Accordingly, with millions of Americans returning to the workplace, we strongly support OSHA’s Vaccination and Testing ETS as an important tool to help ensure the health and safety of employees and bolster vaccination rates across the country.”

Vaccinations, the physician organization argued, are necessary not only to limit severe illness, hospitalizations, and deaths from the virus but also to ease the burden on the nation’s health care system, which has operated under a persistent strain since the pandemic began in early 2020.

Covid-19 cases are once again on the rise in the U.S., a surge that is already pushing hospitals to the breaking point and that public health officials fear with only grow worse as the holidays draw closer. What’s more, the heavily mutated Omicron variant is sending public health officials scrambling as the new variant of concern continues to crop up around the globe. While some early reports seem to suggest that Omicron infections may be less severe than those caused by previous Covid strains, that is far from a sure thing—and it also seems to spread more quickly, and the resulting acceleration in Covid cases may be the straw that breaks the health care system’s back.

In its letter, the AMA noted that it has strongly supported Covid-19 vaccine mandates for health care personnel in the past, and broadening these mandates to non-medical workers will only improve U.S. vaccine coverage.

“While we understand that some employees may have concerns about the safety and efficacy of the Covid-19 vaccines, significant evidence demonstrates that the benefits of the vaccines outweigh the limited risks associated with administration,” the organization wrote. “Covid-19 vaccines produced by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Janssen either licensed or authorized for use in the U.S. have demonstrated remarkable safety and efficacy profiles, with adverse events being rare.”

The AMA also acknowledged some of the arguments that have been posited suggesting such vaccine mandates are not necessary, noting that vaccine efficacy appears to wane over time and that fully vaccinated individuals, who are less likely to become infected with SARS-CoV-2, may not be contagious for as long as vaccinated individuals, meaning that transmission risk is reduced even if not all individuals are vaccinated.

“That said,” the AMA argued, “concerns regarding the safety and efficacy profile of the available Covid-19 vaccines should not prohibit employers from mandating vaccination of their employees and we therefore support OSHA’s efforts to ensure employee health and safety through the actions outlined in the ETS.”

John McKenna, Associate Editor, BreakingMED™

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