The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine – recently granted Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the Food and Drug Administration – shows promising results, with final trial results showing 95% efficacy. The Moderna vaccine is expected to receive EUA within days and shows a similar efficacy rate.
MNA nurses are on record in support of voluntary vaccination programs as one part of the strategies needed for a healthy population. MNA nurses support usage of the federally approved vaccines to bring an end to the COVID-19 pandemic.
MNA acknowledges that for some recipients these vaccines could pose some harm. Similarly, MNA recognizes the fast-track to implementation has caused a lack of trust in the approval process, which has been noted in the past by communities of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). As with all medical decisions, we believe individuals must have the ability to weigh the risks versus the benefits of vaccination to their health and make that decision with their care provider. Vaccination must not be mandated by law or as a condition of employment.
COVID-19 is a devastating virus, already having killed more than 300,000 Americans, with countless others suffering serious illness. We have seen our hospitals fill up with COVID cases, in some cases causing waits for other seriously ill people to receive the level of care they need. Evidence about the long-term consequences of this disease is piling up, with many survivors suffering negative outcomes for months. We still don’t know if this illness will have lifelong consequences, much like post-polio syndrome does for years afterward.
This disease is so serious that we must use every tool science gives us to combat it.
While the vaccines appear promising and public opinion polls show a growing number of Americans considering vaccinations, the vaccine alone is not a cure-all. MNA nurses strongly recommend and support continuing to implement other infection control measures. Employers must renew their efforts to protect healthcare workers and patients from transmission by using all infection control tactics at their disposal: optimal personal protective equipment, contact tracing, rapid testing and results, adequate staffing, hygiene, environmental controls, isolation policies, and paid COVID leave for healthcare workers who need to quarantine.
MNA nurses also strongly support community measures to control the transmission of the virus. Avoiding indoor gatherings, staying home when sick, wearing a mask when out, and washing hands will remain critical until a significant majority of the population is vaccinated.
Even though the vaccine news is hopeful, we must continue to operate on the precautionary principle which states that without scientific proof that a proposed action does not risk causing harm, the action should not be implemented and the maximum safeguards should be pursued. The better we adhere to all of the measures to slow the transmission that are within our control, the sooner the pandemic will come to an end.
As Registered Nurses, one of our duties is to provide health education to the community and to do that we must meet patients where they are, including any personal or historic trauma that may influence their health decisions. Due to the history of medical experimentation and racism within the healthcare system toward American BIPOC communities, the medical establishment has lost the trust of many BIPOC patients. The rapid process of developing, testing, and approving vaccines – involving politically-motivated pressure – has also hurt the trust that many Americans have in the vaccine. We encourage all healthcare providers to learn more about reasons patients may be hesitant to take a vaccine and work to build trust with them.