Healthcare workers have always held an understanding that they may be exposed to and have to work with patients who have highly contagious diseases. This common knowledge definitely remained true when the COVID-19 virus spread into the pandemic it is. Countless numbers of healthcare workers acknowledged this new reality and embraced it, continuing to work despite the dangers that lurked for their patients, their coworkers, their families and friends, and themselves.  When the vaccines were underway, it seemed like a light at the end of this dark and foreign tunnel. However, a year after these vaccines were made available to the public, society is now dealing with mandates requiring a person to be vaccinated for various things to include international travel, sporting events, concerts, and to be able to return back to work. The CDPHE requires that all state, federal, and healthcare workers must have been vaccinated by September 20, 2021 or provide an exemption form and participate in COVID-tests twice a week.The number of companies requiring vaccinations is growing and will continue to grow with evolving laws and regulations. For the companies that have already had to begin enforcing these mandates, there has been apparent defiance and opposition resulting in employees being voluntarily or involuntarily terminated from their jobs. Healthcare workplaces are amongst these.

To gain some perspective on why people who work in healthcare are having a hard time acquiescing to these mandates, I interviewed with five staff members at an inpatient healthcare facility. The name of the facility as well as the names of the interviewees will remain anonymous. Of the staff interviewed, their job titles include Medical Director, Director of Compliance, Infectious Disease Nurse, Director of Human Resources, and Case Manager. Since the vaccine has been made available, only one out the five interviewed reported they noticed a decrease in employees taking time off work due to COVID related issues. The majority consensus is that presently there have been even more people needing to take time off due to being infected with the virus, despite their vaccination status. With the current CDC regulations surrounding quarantine, those who are fully vaccinated do not need to quarantine and only need to get tested within 5-7 days after exposure. If a person is not vaccinated, the recommendations state they should quarantine for up to 14 days after exposure. In Colorado, the quarantine recommendation is 10 days without any symptoms and 14 with symptoms. The regulations appear to try to allow less restrictions that would seem to be able to keep more people at work, but it does not appear that this comes to fruition.

The mandate of required vaccinations has threatened and added to the phenomenon society is seeing as a ripple effect from the pandemic called the Great Resignation. This has been a surge of employers losing staff at drastic numbers and rates. Healthcare workers are no exception to this. Despite healthcare workplaces already requiring annual flu vaccinations and, until recently, annual tuberculosis tests, requiring the COVID vaccine as a condition of employment is leaving a bad taste in many mouths. Four out the five persons surveyed expressed that these mandates are causing strife, animosity, and overall bad morale in the workplace. Popular healthcare systems, like UC Health, reported that 119 out of their 26,500 staff did not comply with the mandate regulations. Another popular healthcare system, Kaiser Permanente, reported that 2,200 out of their 240,000 employees had been “placed on administrative leave” for not being in compliance with the mandate.

From the five-person survey, only the Director of Human Resources had mentioned actually seeing the repercussions of employees leaving due to issues with the mandate. She reported that “only five employees who were on a PRN status refused to comply with getting the vaccine or signing a declination form” out of the more than 300 total employees in the facility. These numbers reflect that while there may be controversy and uproar about the mandates, majority of employees are complying by either receiving the vaccine or signing an exemption form.

What is interesting is while healthcare workplaces have required flu vaccinations and TB tests there is such controversy surrounding the COVID vaccines. All five persons surveyed did seem to spark on some common ground in that the vaccine and the mandates are heavily influenced by politics. It is difficult to find data to support these speculations. When asked if there is a belief that the COVID vaccine will remain a regularly required vaccination for healthcare workplaces, again, five out of five persons surveyed answered “yes” as long as the presidential political party remains with the Democrats and answered “no” if the presidential political party turns over to the Republicans. The thoughts surrounding the COVID vaccine mandates from within an inpatient healthcare facility reflect a more grand scheme than just the virus or the vaccines themselves – political views.

 

Bibliography

Vaccine Laws and Regulations. Colorado Department of Public Health & Education. September 17, 2021.

Vaccine laws and regulations | Colorado COVID-19 Updates

 

CDC. COVID-19. Quarantine & Isolation. October 19, 2021. COVID-19 Quarantine and Isolation | CDC

 

Muio, Dave. “How Many Employees Have Hospitals Lost to Vaccine Mandates? Here are the numbers so​far”. Fierce Healthcare. November 1, 2021. How many employees have hospitals lost to vaccinemandates? Here are the numbers so far | FierceHealthcare