In an effort to contain COVID-19 and the new rapid spread of the delta virus across the U.S., a coalition of 10 cardiovascular societies issued a statement of support for healthcare systems requiring COVID-19 vaccines for its employees.
July 30, 2021 — A coalition of 10 U.S.-based cardiovascular societies have issued a statement today in support of all healthcare systems requiring COVID-19 vaccines for healthcare and long-term care employees.
Controversy arose after some health systems recently began requiring all employees to be vaccinated earlier this year. Most notably this week, was the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced it will require all its healthcare workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. In doing so, it become the first major federal agency to pass such a mandate.
It is widely expected that additional healthcare systems will also soon move toward mandatory COVID vaccinations in response to a rapidly growing new wave of U.S. COVID cases. The VA made the decision based on this new wave of highly transmissible delta variant cases, which is growing across the country among unvaccinated people.
“The cardiovascular community supports and encourages healthcare systems to require COVID-19 vaccinations for healthcare and long-term care employees. The data is clear that the COVID-19 vaccine’s benefits far outweigh any risks and that it is our best tool to end this pandemic, but many, including many healthcare workers, have made the choice to not get vaccinated," reads the joint statement sent out by the American College of Cardiology (ACC) and all of the major cardiology societies in the U.S. These include:
"Healthcare workers have been at the forefront of the COVID-19 pandemic, sacrificing their own health, well-being and, in many cases, their lives, to care for patients around the world suffering from coronavirus. But the fight is not over," the statement continues. "With the recent surge of new cases fueled by variants and the unvaccinated, patients are again overwhelming hospitals, and many are dying. The cardiovascular community believes that we cannot allow unvaccinated healthcare workers to put the vulnerable, the immunocompromised and unvaccinated children at risk within a healthcare setting."
The statement explains that patients with cardiovascular disease are susceptible to serious adverse reactions from COVID-19 infection, and all patients rely on well-functioning care teams that have healthy staff fulfilling critical roles.
"Unvaccinated healthcare workers therefore place patients at risk, both directly and indirectly, making the call for the cardiovascular care team to get vaccinated especially urgent. Healthcare institutions have an ethical responsibility to protect the health and safety of their patients and their communities. As our nation and the world continue to suffer from COVID-19 and increasing variants, we strongly believe all healthcare workers should become vaccinated and support requiring COVID vaccination as a condition of health system employment and vendor contracting,” the societies said in the joint statement.
New Wave of COVID Cases Causing Major Concerns in Healthcare
A month ago in late June, new reported cases of COVID nationwide had dropped to the lowest levels seen since March 2020, with about 9,000 new cases per day. In the last 30 days this rapidly rose to more than 86,000 new cases per day on June 28, and the trend continues a steep rise. The rise in cases is occurring in all states, but some are seeing much faster rates of infection.
About 98% of these new cases are in unvaccinated people and is being largely driven by the new, more contagious delta variant that originated in India. Less than 3% of cases being reported are breakthrough COVID infections in vaccinated people. For this reason, the current COVID spread is being labeled as an infection wave of the unvaccinated.
This is especially true in Florida, which is leading the country in daily positive test numbers and COVID deaths. Last week, Florida reported more than 73,000 new COVID cases. Some hospitals in Florida have reported they are at, or over, capacity for patients and their ICUs are full due to the influx of new COVID cases.
CDC Reverses Course of Masks for Vaccinated
The rapid rise in new COVID cases and reports of vaccinated people carrying the virus and passing it on to unvaccinated people prompted the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to re-evaluate its masking guidelines this week. The CDC now recommends all vaccinated people wear a mask indoors and in crowded environments, especially in areas of high COVID transmission.
This new rule had an immediate impact in Las Vegas, where the state of Nevada re-issued masking rules in an emergency directive for everyone inside buildings, regardless of vaccination status. The city had resisted implementing masking rules so as not to detour tourists from coming to Las Vegas. But, COVID infection numbers rose significantly in recent weeks in Clark County, becoming one of the key hot zones in the U.S.
The large Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference, which usually has in excess of 50,000 people attending, is planned for an in-person meeting Aug. 9-13 in Las Vegas. The conference originally required all attendees and vendors to be vaccinated to attend and requires proof of vaccination so masks would not be needed. However, HIMSS sent out emails this week that masks will now be required under the new state guidelines.
Chicago, Los Angeles and Hawaii this past week also issued travel advisories for anyone going to Las Vegas because of the growing number of cases.
Where are we at With U.S. Vaccination Rates?
Americans who wanted to get vaccinated had largely done so by June 2021, and the long lines and full schedule of appointments at vaccine clinics dropped off precipitously in late May into June. According to CDC numbers, by early July, new vaccinations dropped to their lowest level since late December 2020 when the vaccine was first being rolled out. Concerns over the new wave of COVID cases has spurred more people to get the vaccine, with new vaccinations increasing slowly again starting July 16.
The CDC reports this week that 69.4% of adults currently have last least one shot of a COVID vaccine. Overall, about about 49.4% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, or about 163.9 million people. There have been a total of more than 344 million vaccine doses delivered so far.
After more than two months of slowing declining vaccinations per day, this past week vaccinations began to rise again with more than 500,000 new vaccinations per day. Here are the current stats on the the vaccination rates by population groups and the groups' related COVID cases per 100,000 people:
• Ages 18-24, 43.5%, 7.02
• Ages 25-39, 48.4%, 8.88
• Ages 40-49, 57.5%, 5.69
• Ages 50-64, 67%, 5
• Ages 65-74, 81.7%, 2.66
• 75 and older, 77.6%, 3.4
Eligible School Age Children Vaccination Rates Remain Under 50 Percent
The FDA currently has approved vaccines use in children age 12 and older. However, less than 50 percent of these age groups are currently vaccinated and remain vulnerable to COVID infections as the case numbers rise on the eve of schools across the country reoping. The rising COVID cases among the unvaccinated, combined with low numbers of vaccinated students, will likely play a role in the ongoing, hot debates over masking requirements in schools.
The 7-day average of new COVID cases per 100,000 in these younger age groups have been declining since the pandemic high the first weeks of January 2021. In the age group 12-15 dropped from the high of 44.17% in January to just 4.3% in late July. In 16-17 year olds, it dropped from 61.79% to 8.38%. In both age groups. There was a sudden, noticeable drop in COVID cases in both groups as the vaccine became available. However, this time period also coincides with when students began leaving schools for summer break in May.
Here are the current statistics on these age groups of middle school and high school students in the U.S. as of this week:
• Ages 12-15 — 38.1%
• Ages 16-17 — 49%
Related COVID Related Cardiology Content:
VIDEO: Antithrombotic Prophylaxis in COVID-19 Patients — Interview with Behnood Bikdeli M.D.