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CEO DATELINE – Health care groups to require COVID-19 vaccinations for in-office staff

Sept. 10, 2021
By Walt Williams

Fourteen organizations representing a broad range of health care interests said Thursday they will require staff to receive COVID-19 vaccinations before returning to the office.

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In a joint statement, the groups said the vaccine mandate for returning staff was a “baseline commitment for assuring employee safety and health” but added that it “leaves room for participating organizations to take stronger actions up to and including vaccine mandates as a condition of employment.”

“Given the sharp rise in cases and deaths in the U.S., and recognizing that most new cases and the overwhelming majority of deaths occur among the unvaccinated, our organizations believe that a vaccine mandate is the primary way to assure the health and safety of our colleagues, family, friends, and communities,” the groups said. “We also strongly support strategies that embrace the full complement of available public health interventions, including masking, testing and social distancing.”

America’s Essential Hospitals, AMCP (Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy), AGMA (the American Medical Group Association) and the Association for Community Affiliated Plans are among the statement’s signatories.

Many associations have staff vaccine mandates of some type. The National Association of Manufacturers requires vaccinations as a condition of employment while the U.S. Chamber of Commerce requires both staff and visitors to show proof of vaccination before visiting its offices. 

The statement was issued the same day President Joe Biden ordered employers with at least 100 employees to require COVID-19 vaccinations or routine testing for staff. That announcement received a muted response from business groups. Business Roundtable, for example, praised Biden for his “continued vigilance” against the pandemic but stopped short of endorsing the policy, instead noting that many of the nation’s largest employers already have vaccine requirements in place.

NAM CEO Jay Timmons also stopped short of a full endorsement, saying in a statement that the requirements should be structured in a way that do not harm the operations of manufacturers or impose undue compliance costs. He noted his association has pushed to convince people to get voluntarily vaccinated through its “This is Our Shot” campaign. 

“Getting all eligible Americans vaccinated will, first and foremost, reduce hospitalizations and save lives,” Timmons said. “But it is also an economic imperative in that our recovery and quality of life depend on our ability to end this pandemic.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce hadn’t issued a statement as of Friday morning, instead telling the Washington Post it plans to review the policy. The American Hotel & Lodging Association said the same.

One exception is the American Apparel & Footwear Association, with CEO Steve Lamar applauding the decision in a statement. He said AAFA was one of the first trade associations to have 100% of its staff vaccinated.

“While the economy is doing better than it was last year, recent supply chain disruptions and factory closures due to the delta variant have stymied our economic recovery,” Lamar said. “These steps will go a long way to ensure that we are getting vaccines in arms, and that we can protect our workforce from this disease that has already cost the world so much.”