Updated December 3, 2020
The Latest on the COVID-19 Vaccine
This is a developing situation, check back for updates.
- As of December 3, only one day after the U.S. recorded its single highest day of hospitalizations––surpassing 100,000––and deaths since the epidemic started–3,157 on Wednesday–a number higher than even the worst day in the spring, the U.S. is still waiting on an official vaccine approval.
- The U.K. authorized the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine yesterday, beating the U.S. to accepting the vaccine. The U.S delay is due to the fact that the British regulators did not analyze the vaccine data as carefully as the U.S.’s FDA is doing currently, says Dr. Anthony Fauci.
- We still don’t have a clear timeline of when the U.S. can expect a COVID-19 vaccine and an FDA agency isn’t meeting until Dec. 10 to even consider an emergency authorization of the Pfizer vaccine––if they do decide to authorize it, the FDA will still have the decide after authorization is granted. However, according to Operation Warp Speed documents, public health officials are aiming to start distributing initial vaccines as soon as December 15th, with 20 million doses expected to be available.
- Once a vaccine is approved, there’s also a matter of mistrust in the vaccine by the American people. A large number of people polled are still undecided if they would not get the COVID-19 vaccine and former U.S. Presidents Clinton, Obama and Bush have all declared publicly that they will get the vaccine, even allowing themselves to be filmed while being injected, in order to bolster public trust.
- State governors are also being prepped on how many vaccines they should expect for their states, a number that is based on their over-age-18 population. Vaccines are to be distributed to identified populations first, according to the CDC, which is expected to include healthcare workers. And while the federal government will be providing the vaccines to the states, the states are responsible for their own distribution, which some state officials say could pose a significant problem with caps on end-of-the-year spending looming and healthcare facilities already stretched to the limit.
Original article posted on 11/9/2020
Nurses and healthcare workers will be amongst the first group to have access to the COVID-19 vaccine and get it if they choose.
In a new update with NPR, the CDC has stated that when a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available, nurses and other healthcare workers will be the first to have access to it.
In the interview with NPR, Dr. José Romero, who works as the head of the committee that develops evidence-based immunization guidelines for the CDC, explained that nurses, providers and healthcare workers will get first access to the vaccine because of their exposure to patients and their vital presence to keep the healthcare system running. According to Dr. Romero, an approved vaccine could be available as early as December or January. “We anticipate having some vaccine for the high-risk individuals — health care providers — sometime in December or early January,” said Romero.
He continued, “It’s not just the doctors and nurses that are interacting with patients, but also the support personnel that help. It could include those persons that are delivering food, or maintenance people that could come in contact with them.”
According to the CDC website, the goal of the vaccine recommendation is to “decrease death and serious disease as much as possible.”
And while some may see the advancement of a COVID-19 vaccine as a reason to celebrate, it’s also a reason to ask one very important question: do nurses want to get the vaccine?
On November 9, 2020 Pfizer and BioNTech announced that their “vaccine candidate was found to be more than 90% effective in preventing COVID-19 in participants without evidence of prior SARS-CoV-2 infection in the first interim efficacy analysis.”
How Nurses Feel About a COVID-19 Vaccine
If this year has shown us anything, it’s that we all tend to have very differing opinions on a lot of issues that affect this country–including the coronavirus. The pandemic has brought to light many differing opinions, beliefs and fears about what the future would hold, including how exactly a vaccine should be handled.
We shared the news with our Instagram community of over 121,000 nurses and hundreds of nurses commented. Read the responses here.
The issue over mandatory vaccines for healthcare workers is not a new one. A 2009 article in the Journal of Pharmacy and Therapeutics outlined the specific challenges in addressing mandatory vaccines for healthcare workers, namely balancing the rights of the healthcare worker to choose vaccination with the rights of patients and the preservation of public health. Despite recognizing the challenge of mandating vaccines, the article ultimately concluded, however, that choosing an occupation that involves, at its core, doing all in your power to improve the patient’s health means choosing to be vaccinated. And although encouraging healthcare workers to get vaccines is the preferred route, the article noted that in cases of non-compliance, mandating it may be unavoidable.
As you may expect, anticipating a vaccine requirement is causing mixed reactions among nurses. Jenny Erwin, a an RN and Vice President of her local nurses’ union from Michigan, has already had COVID-19, so she hopes her natural immunities will be enough should a vaccine be mandated. However, the nurse is skeptical about a vaccine and its future role in life post-virus.
“I’m a pro-vaccine for the record,” she tells Nurse.org. “ it seems crazy to me, that we still don’t even know a lot about this virus and now we have a vaccine? I’m not a clinical researcher or anything even close. How can we develop a vaccine if we don’t even know how people become immune to it? Or why some people have no symptoms at all? I hate how political COVID has become because it deserves respect. I’ve seen a lot of people die, quickly, with this virus. The CDC, etc. has lost a lot of respect with the way they handled COVID from the frontline workers. I want to believe in the science of it, I’m just so skeptical about everything right now.”
The inevitable approval of a COVID-19 vaccine also brings into light the question of vaccine choice for nurses and other healthcare workers.
- Should they have the right to decline a vaccine?
- Should a vaccine be mandatory based on what type of patient population you are working with?
- What if you have COVID-19 antibodies already?
Mandatory vaccines, in general, is a heated topic and for travel nurses in particular, the question has already arisen. Some travel nursing positions posted this fall include a caveat: “Flu vaccine-no declinations.” However, it is important to note that some travel nursing positions have also made that requirement in years past too during flu season, so it’s not all just because of the `rona. But regardless of the origin, once the precedent for mandatory vaccination-or-no-job is set, some nurses are wondering if they will have a choice at all.
One interesting look at the topic comes from Sara Guercio, a Registered Nurse and law school graduate. Her article takes a deep dive into the legality of mandating vaccines and in short: there are no clear answers.
“As a nurse, with family and friends on the front lines of this epidemic, I want the maximum amount of protection for public health reasons; if that is a mandatory vaccine, I am all for it,” she writes. “But, as a nurse and an American woman, I am particularly concerned with privacy rights and the importance of the right to have a medical choice; I wonder and worry what precedent such a vaccination requirement would set.”
American Nurse’s Association’s Stance
If you’re wondering what the official nursing organizations have to say about it all, the American Nurses’ Association’s (ANA) stance on nurse immunizations is clear: vaccinate unless there is a medical exception. You can read their full policy, but the organization notes that they do not support vaccine exemptions based on “philosophical or religious exemptions” and they note that anyone who cannot receive a vaccine due to medical reasons “may be required to adopt measures or practices in the workplace to reduce the chance of disease transmission.”
Now, we want to hear from you: do you think nurses should be required to receive a COVID-19 vaccine? Will you get a vaccine if it’s offered to you? Let us know on Instagram @nurse_org
** Nurse.org reached out to the CDC for further comment on this subject and will update the article once a response is received.