Groups demand medical colleges mandate employees get COVID-19 vaccine

Emory University Hospital. (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Caption
Emory University Hospital. (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Pressure is mounting on medical colleges, including Atlanta’s largest, to require their employees get the COVID-19 vaccine.

The Association of American Medical Colleges released a statement Friday afternoon urging its member institutions to mandate employee vaccinations, citing an increase in COVID-19 cases exacerbated by the Delta variant. Its Georgia members are Augusta, Emory, and Mercer universities and Morehouse School of Medicine.

“Nowhere is this more important than in hospitals, where health care personnel — who have been heroic during this pandemic — are caring for patients with a wide variety of health challenges under the assumption that the health care professionals treating them are not at risk of acquiring or transmitting COVID-19,” the association wrote. “Yet, we have tragically lost some health care personnel to the coronavirus, while others have taken the infection home to their families. Vaccinating health care personnel at our member institutions saves lives.”

ExploreCoronavirus cases among the unvaccinated are on the rise in Georgia

Meanwhile, more than 150 Emory University faculty members have signed a petition demanding everyone on any Emory campus to be fully vaccinated two weeks prior to the start of classes. Emory’s main hospital is on its Atlanta campus, which is a teaching institution. The fall semester there begins for most students on Aug. 25.

“As an institution that has as its motto ‘The wise heart seeks knowledge,’ we respectfully ask the University administration to follow the science. Mandating vaccinations for all is the wise thing to do,” says the petition which began last week.

Emory, the state’s largest private university, announced in April it would require all of its students, but not its faculty and staff, get vaccinated by the start of the fall semester. It has roughly 33,000 employees in its entire academic and health care system and enrolled about 15,000 students last year. Students can apply for an exemption to the vaccine requirement based on medical conditions or strong personal objections.

Emory said in a statement that more than 24,000 students, faculty and staff are fully vaccinated. It requires all faculty and staff to be either fully vaccinated or submit to weekly testing.

Georgia Dean of the House of Representatives Calvin Smyre (D-Columbus) receives his second dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccination shot at Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. Rep. Smyre was present with the late Hank Aaron when they both received the first vaccination shot. The school is requiring its students and employees get the vaccine for the next semester. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
Caption
Georgia Dean of the House of Representatives Calvin Smyre (D-Columbus) receives his second dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccination shot at Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. Rep. Smyre was present with the late Hank Aaron when they both received the first vaccination shot. The school is requiring its students and employees get the vaccine for the next semester. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Augusta University is part of the University System of Georgia, which currently encourages, but not requires its students and employees to get vaccinated. Mercer University has similar guidelines, according to its website. Morehouse School of Medicine announced in April it would require its students and employees to be vaccinated for the fall semester.