Isabelle B is a healthcare worker in the Northwest, and member of the American Party of Labor. She wrote to the Phoenix with her thoughts on the need for a vaccine mandate given her experience working in healthcare. The question of vaccine mandates has been hotly contested within healthcare labor unions, with the largest nurses union (NNU) resisting the push to make vaccines contingent to employment while encouraging members to get it, consistent with their view on the flu vaccine. The union, has, however, fought staunchly for mask mandates. The Red Phoenix reproduces letters without editing their content.
It is common to see patients who “refuse” treatment for various reasons. The side effects are worse than the current symptoms, the procedure would mean time away from work and family that the patient can’t afford, the medication is simply too expensive, insurance will not cover it—the list goes on. Hearing someone turn down a treatment that would greatly help them is always the most difficult part of working in healthcare for me, but it is rare that my frustration would ever be with the patient. My frustration is generally with the conditions that lead patients to denying their care and the barriers to access that are artificially put up.
The disparities in access to care in this country have become all the more relevant during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the rollout and distribution of the vaccine has been a different story than other types of healthcare treatment we commonly see. It is free of charge, medical insurance is not required, appointments are often not required, and the vaccine has repeatedly been proven safe. Additionally, becoming vaccinated is a measure which protects the health of others, as well as the patient who receives it. With most medical treatment, refusal only impacts your own health and not the health of those around you. Refusing the vaccine impacts
For many reasons other than those discussed above, many Americans refuse the
available vaccines. This is a mistake and has been detrimental to making progress in
immunizing the population against the virus. Because of the hazard that is refusing to vaccinate oneself, I advocate for a vaccine mandate—it should be a requirement, by both social and legal standards, to vaccinate and prevent the spread of infectious disease, particularly COVID-19 at the moment. Unvaccinated people pose a danger to everyone they are in contact with, even if it is inadvertent. I see hundreds of patients each week, and if even one of them is unvaccinated, it puts me, my coworkers (technicians, doctors, and administrators), and all of my patients at risk
for contracting a new mutated variant of the virus that an individual may carry. This risk is too great for a vaccination to be considered optional.
It is also my hope that a vaccine mandate would help take down some of the remaining barriers that prevent people from being vaccinated. If someone is having a difficult time getting vaccinated because they can not take time away from work, a mandate should motivate an employer to give their employees adequate time to get the shot(s). A mandate should motivate public transit services to reduce or eliminate fares for passengers getting the vaccine. And most of all, a mandate would prevent many vulnerable people from having to face the cruelties of the American healthcare system, as they would if they contract the virus. The vaccine requirement is a crucial step in stopping the virus from spreading further and keeping all of us—healthcare workers included—safe and healthy.