On January 14, the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) issued a statement attributable to AAFP President Sterling N. Ransone, Jr., MD, FAAFP, on the Supreme Court ruling on vaccine mandates.
“The AAFP recognizes that vaccines are a critical public health tool to prevent disease and protect patients, families, and communities. Family physicians frequently administer immunizations, and we regularly counsel patients and their families on the safety and efficacy of the vaccines. We strongly support COVID-19 vaccinations to prevent hospitalization and death in people of all ages. We urge every eligible individual to get the COVID-19 vaccine as a means of protecting themselves and their community against the virus. We also believe it is appropriate to require health care workers who are responsible for the health and wellbeing of others to be fully vaccinated. To this end, while we appreciate the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the vaccination mandate for health care workers, we are discouraged by the Court’s decision to stay the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s regulation mandating that large employers require employees to be fully vaccinated or submit to weekly COVID-19 testing.
“As the world continues to confront the COVID-19 pandemic and surges from variants like Delta and Omicron, all workers should get vaccinated for their own health and to protect the health of their colleagues, families, and communities in which they live. It is especially necessary to protect those who are vulnerable, including unvaccinated children and the immunocompromised. The need to protect vulnerable groups is why many industries, including health care, long-term care, and education, already require vaccinations for influenza, hepatitis B, and pertussis.
“We remain firmly supportive of the administration’s efforts to increase access to and acceptance of COVID-19 vaccines and boosters. Family physicians know that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective for protecting recipients from severe illness and can help reduce COVID-19 transmissibility, but we must commit to a multifaceted approach in the face of the Omicron variant and any future variants. All options must be on the table to get Americans vaccinated and to stem the spread of the virus.
“This includes improving accessibility to tests, clearer guidance on proper masking (including the availability and equitable provision of KN95 or N95 masks), addressing workers’ concerns, engaging with marginalized populations, and working with trusted messengers to improve vaccine acceptance and adherence to public health recommendations. We hope all other employers across the country will implement effective policies to encourage vaccination. The health and safety of U.S. workers, families, and communities depend upon it.”