Why aren't the nurses in our pediatricians' office not vaccinated?

Why aren't the nurses in our pediatricians' office not vaccinated? ...

As parents of a pandemic baby, we find that life has revolved around diapers, nursing, and protecting our son from COVID-19, since he is too young to be immunized.

We were surprised to learn that several nurses in our doctors practice were not vaccinated when our pediatrician began scheduling him for another round of the dozen vaccines that protect children from diseases that used to kill millions of children each year before their first birthday.

How could this possibly be the case nearly a year after highly effective COVID-19 vaccines were approved and saved thousands of people from illness and death?

We vividly recall being interviewed by our doctor before our sons birth and being told in no uncertain terms that we would not be accepted into his practice if we refused to follow the child immunization program recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Since we are public health practitioners who have worked on child immunization for decades in countries from Namibia to Moldova, we laughed at his repeated stern warnings; our pediatrician was preaching to the choir.

Why aren't some nurses in his office not vaccinated? Because neither the state nor the federal government is imposing a vaccine mandate on small private practices, and because the doctors in them are concerned about losing nurses and other ancillary personnel if they require their health care workers to be vaccinated.

An informal survey among friends revealed that our experience is not uncommon many pediatric practices do not have fully vaccinated staff. Whrend the pediatricians we spoke with were unsatisfied that not everyone is vaccinated, they said that nursing shortages are acute and that their tiny independent practices could not afford to lose nurses and still operate. And so they have determined that this serves the overall health and well-being of their patients, despite the avoidable risks.

At this point in the epidemic, allowing unvaccinated health care workers to treat children is inadmissible. The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that the number of new pediatric COVID cases remains high, with 27 percent of the weekly national reported cases occurring in children. 30 percent of the confirmed cases in Massachusetts in the last two weeks were in children, according to the state. Although COVID affects a small percentage of children, recent studies have shown that up to one-third of infected children experienced long-haul COVD, whose long term effects are still undetermined.

As recent research has shown, mandatory vaccination programs have been found to be effective in increasing vaccination rates among health workers, without significant attrition, as has been demonstrated in other parts of the country.

The major hospitals in Massachusetts have mandated vaccines for their employees, and Governor Charlie Baker has done the same for long-term health care facilities and home care workers, but he hasn't extended it to health workers in pediatric practices. The mandates haven't stifled the exodus of health workers, and the system hasnt collapsed, as initially feared 90-97 percent of workers at Mass General Brigham, Boston Medical Center, or Beth Israel Lahey Health have met the requirements before the Oct. 15-31 deadlines.

Baker must close the loophole for licensed health workers who are outside of the current mandates but still work with vulnerable populations, such as children, while also protecting the public's health. This includes health workers at the more than 100 independently owned community-based pediatric practices in Massachusetts that care for more then 200,000 children.

Other parts of the country are ahead of us in this regard. Vaccines are compulsory for federally qualified health center pediatric practices in all states and for all pediatric care network-based and independent practices in California, Colorado, Maine, New York, and Washington, D.C.

The Massachusetts Nurses Association itself believes that its members are ethically, morally and professionally obligated to work together to decrease further harm to members, patients, and communities... from COVID-19. m n w e d i o t a c r u s h b q y l p x g v j f er k z en /,

The most frequently-cited reasons behind vaccine hesitantness, such as fears of side effects, the effectiveness of the vaccine, and infertility, have been disproved. The FDA-approved vaccines are safe, highly effective against hospitalization and death, and do not cause infertility.

The governor must act now to ensure that children, especially those too young to be currently vaccinated, are protected by those entrusted with caring for their health and well-being by requiring COVID vaccinations for all licensed health workers in the state. Our baby, and all of his siblings and siblings who are too young to be vaccinated, deserve it.

Shan Soe-Lin is the managing director of the Boston-based Pharos Global Health Advisors and a lecturer in global health at the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs at Yale University. Robert Hecht is the president of Pharos Global Health Advisors and a clinical professor of epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health.

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