WATERTOWN — Of those who claim they have a valid reason for not being vaccinated against the novel coronavirus, health care employees have the weakest argument.
First of all, they work in the industry that has the best answers to concerns over the vaccines. This includes how effective the vaccinations have proven to be and their long-term effects on people. Staff members of medical facilities should know how to seek out the most current and soundest advice from experts and follow their guidelines.
Secondly, they undermine their own authority as representatives of the health care field. Every day, they ask people to trust them with their well-being. Why should we put our lives in the hands of those who lack confidence in the scientific authorities who lead their profession?
And finally, they put their patients at significant risk of becoming infected if they won’t get vaccinated. Many health care workers declare that they have the right to decide whether or not to become immunized. While this is true, they have no right to force others to live with the dreadful consequences of the dismal choices they make.
New York has ordered all health care workers to get at least one shot of the three available vaccinations by Monday or risk being terminated for cause. Of course, an exception will be made for individuals who have legitimate health issues preventing them from receiving the shots.
But that’s it. The state will deny exemptions made on religious grounds. And it certainly won’t tolerate health care employees who hesitate because of the numerous unfounded concerns many others have raised.
On Sept. 14, a federal judge called for a temporary restraining order on the state’s mandate. This resulted from a lawsuit filed by 17 New York health care employees through the Thomas More Society, a Chicago-based law firm. It’s not known yet whether this lawsuit will prevent the state from carrying out its vaccination order.
It’s unfortunate that it’s come to the point where state officials feel the need to compel medical staffers to be vaccinated. Substantial evidence shows that the vaccines are safe and effective against catching the virus and spreading it to others. It’s also the best protection from becoming seriously ill from COVID-19 in the rare case that infection occurs.
So it’s astonishing that so many health care workers won’t get vaccinated. What do they not understand about the alarming statistics showing infections, grave illness and death occurring mostly among those who have refused to get the shots? When will it finally sink in that they’re playing with fire when it comes to their health and the lives of the people they serve?
By not being vaccinated, they are about four times more likely to become infected, nine times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 and 11 times more likely to die than are vaccinated individuals. Those are the stark facts of this pandemic.
And it’s gotten even worse with the delta variant. This mutation is much more transmissible than its predecessor.
In addition, mutations occur more rapidly as the virus spreads. Will we get to a point where the protections we have now are no longer effective?
The conclusion is crystal clear: Unvaccinated people are exacerbating this health care crisis! I know this sounds harsh, but it’s also the truth.
Various stories have been published over the past few weeks in the Watertown Daily Times about potential staff shortages at medical facilities due to New York’s mandate. Some state law legislators have criticized the administration of Gov. Kathy Hochul for moving ahead with this order.
Some health care workers have raised concerns about the long-term effects of the coronavirus vaccinations. Others don’t believe it’s ethical to benefit from something that has some connection to aborted fetuses.
The scientific consensus is that the vaccines won’t result in harmful side effects down the road. Unlike other medications shown years later to pose serious risks, vaccines usually reveal problems within weeks. And while there have been some side effects with the vaccines, most are minor.
Only three deaths have been documented to have occurred as a result of taking one of the vaccinations. This was with the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine earlier this year. Six women developed blood clots resulting in three fatalities, but no similar problems have been reported since a review was conducted and some changes made to the vaccine.
Public health authorities have found the vaccinations to be safe for pregnant women. And pro-life leaders, including Pope Francis, said that while some of the vaccines have a remote link to fetal cell lines, people should still be immunized given the seriousness of the pandemic.
People resisting being vaccinated against the coronavirus for ethical reasons should know that the vaccines for chickenpox, hepatitis A, measles, mumps, rabies and rubella have the same connection to fetal cell lines. And so do numerous over-the-counter medications such as Advil, Aleve, Benadryl, Claritin, Ex-Lax, Lipitor, Maalox, Motrin, Pepto Bismol, Preparation H, Prilosec, Senokot, Sudafed, Tums, Tylenol and Zoloft. If you sincerely object to one, you should oppose them all.
I appreciate how health care workers are wrestling with the many issues raised about the coronavirus vaccine. The position they find themselves in is troubling indeed.
But here are the facts they need to face:
They are much more likely to become infected if they don’t get vaccinated. This means they’ll endanger the lives of their patients; many of them are immunocompromised for various reasons. How can their employers allow them to come into contact with individuals given such grave risks?
The overwhelming conclusion of medical experts is that the vaccines are safe and offer the best protection against catching and spreading the virus. If you work in the health care industry, perhaps you should trust the judgment of the medical/scientific leaders in this area. They too have a stake in all of this and certainly aren’t going to put themselves and their loved ones in jeopardy with poor research or misleading statements.
The suggestion of having unvaccinated health care workers tested each week is no good. This will be an ongoing expense for months — and who’ll pay for it?
In addition, a test captures one moment in a whole week. The employee could become infected shortly after being tested and walk around for days spreading the virus to other people. Getting as many vaccinated as possible is the only sensible solution to halt this pandemic.
So I don’t know what other option the state has but to force the hand of health care workers who won’t listen to reason. Everyone who seeks treatment from medical professionals should feel confident that those serving them won’t imperil their lives with reckless behavior.
It’s time for the staff members of health care and nursing facilities to do the right thing and put their patients first. If they can’t do that, they should consider another line of work.
Jerry Moore is the editorial page editor for the Watertown Daily Times. Readers may call him at 315-661-2369 or send emails to firstname.lastname@example.org. They also may follow him on Twitter: @WDT_OpEd.