Houston, TX

Houston Hospital First In Nation to Require Staff Covid-19 Vaccinations

Dr. Jeff Livingston

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The Houston Methodist Hospital System is now the first US hospital to require all staff to be vaccinated against Covid-19. The bold move toward mandatory vaccination comes on the heels of a new CDC report showing the messenger RNA vaccines are 90 percent effective at preventing COVID-19 infections in healthcare workers and first responders.

Bloomberg reported Chief Executive Officer Dr. Marc Boom notified the staff via email of the new vaccine policy. The Methodist system currently requires all new staff to be fully vaccinated. The new mandate will require all staff to receive their first vaccine dose by the middle of April.

The Houston Methodist system employs 26,000 people. Currently, 83% have started the vaccination process. Dr. Bloom encourages hospital staff to demonstrate leadership through vaccination to help create a safe environment for patient care. He stated, "When we choose to be vaccinated against COVID-19, we are prioritizing safety by helping stop the spread of this deadly virus and keeping our patients, visitors, and colleagues safe,"

The Houston Methodist system is now the first hospital in the US to mandate employee Covid-19 vaccination. This company decision by a private company is likely to be a driving force to encourage widespread vaccine adoption. Recent data from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) show this controversial decision is back-up by clinical evidence.

The CDC published updated information on vaccination's safety and efficacy in healthcare workers in the March 29th Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. This update analyzed Covid-19 vaccines in a real-world setting. The findings showed the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna were 90 percent effective at preventing COVID-19 infections among healthcare personnel, first responders, and other essential frontline workers.

Improving the number of vaccinated workers reduces the risk of spreading the infection from health providers to patients.

Many people still report uncertainty regarding Covid-19 vaccinations. There are three FDA-approved vaccines for Covid-19. The two messenger RNA vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer offer 95% protection against Covid-19. The Covid-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna use messenger RNA (mRNA). A single strand of mRNA delivers instructions to human cells to produce an antibody against the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein.

The Johnson and Johnson’s Janssen vaccine offers 72% protection against infection and 86% against severe disease. The Janssen vaccine uses Adenovirus 26 (AD26) as the vector to deliver DNA material into our cells to provoke an immune response.

The Moderna and Janssen vaccines are approved for those 18 years old and up. The Pfizer vaccine is approved starting at age 16.

All three vaccines are highly effective in preventing death

Many vaccine-hesitant individuals express fears over the vaccine approval process. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a strict protocol for vaccine approval. Enough data to qualify for emergency use authorization of the Covid-19 vaccines was made possible because of the substantial $10 billion financial investment combined with the virus’s high prevalence worldwide. The FDA did not rush the vaccine approval. It was well-funded, and there were a massive number of trial candidates.

An effective vaccine is only useful if people get it

Public support for vaccination is already changing. Many workers prefer an employee vaccination mandate. This CNBC poll shows the rapidly changing public perceptions.

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Recent Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidance indicates employers may mandate vaccination. The Houston Methodist system may be the first hospital to require vaccination, but other industry employers may be motivated to encourage vaccine compliance to avoid lost workdays, reduce remote working, and prevent increases in health insurance premiums.

Other companies outside of healthcare are exploring options.

In an article in Forbes, Qantas Airways CEO Alan Joyce reported his plans to restrict airline travel to those who have been vaccinated or have documented immunity. During a CNBC interview, Live Nation CEO hinted at the potential for immunity documentation before issuing tickets to concerts and sporting events. Ticketmaster released a vague but clarifying statement on their website, stating, “We are exploring a number of safety features for event organizers to utilize as they look to welcome fans back to events.”

During a Yale Chief Executive Leadership Institute poll at a virtual summit, 72% of current and recent CEOs of major companies signaled an openness to vaccine mandates. Companies participating in the Yale summit include Walmart, Goldman Sachs, and eBay.

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Dr. Jeff Livingston is nationally recognized thought leader, speaker, writer, blogger and practicing physician who is considered an expert in the use of social media to educate patients, using new and innovative technology to improve care outcomes and the patient experience. He is a prating Obgyn and serves as the CEO of MacArthur Medical Center. Dr. Jeff is the co-founder of the health website Medika.life and an active blogger on Medium.

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