Public Health

750,000 COVID-19 deaths a heavy toll. Now we can prevent many more.

Andis Robeznieks , Senior News Writer

What’s the news: The AMA, American Hospital Association (AHA) and the American Nurses Association (ANA) are mourning the 750,000 deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S. These major organizations representing U.S. doctors, hospitals and nurses issued an urgent call for everyone eligible to get vaccinated and continue taking precautions against the disease.

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“This devastating milestone should serve as a reminder to everyone that the COVID-19 pandemic is not over and still poses a major threat to our society, particularly to the unvaccinated,” says a joint statement issued by the organizations.

“The only way to truly end this pandemic is to ensure widespread vaccination and continue taking the preventive public health measures that we know work in curbing the spread of this virus,” the statement continues.

This grim news came shortly after the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) recent authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for younger children, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also has recommended. The agencies also authorized and recommended booster doses for some recipients of the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna vaccines, and all recipients of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, to help ward off the Delta variant and other emerging variants ofSARS-CoV-2.

“With the FDA’s authorization of the COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 5–11 and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations for use of the vaccine in this population, we strongly encourage all parents to get their children vaccinated as soon as they are eligible,” the joint statement says.

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Why it’s important: While some regions are reporting declines in new cases of COVID-19, hospitals in states such as Colorado are reporting some of their highest levels of COVID-19 patients in acute-care and intensive-care unit (ICU) beds. The Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment reports that 30% of state hospitals anticipate a shortage of ICU beds.

While more than 76% of Colorado’s adults have been vaccinated against COVID-19, UCHealth—one of the state’s largest health systems—reports that 76% of its hospitalized COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated and 86% of the patients on ventilators in its ICUs are not vaccinated. Many of UCHealth’s vaccinated patients with COVID-19 have compromised immune systems.

“Evidence demonstrates that people who are not fully vaccinated are 10 times more likely to be hospitalized, and 11 times more likely to die of COVID-19, than those who are fully vaccinated,” says the statement from the AMA, ANA and AHA.

“Physicians, nurses and other health care professionals have seen firsthand the devastating impact of COVID-19, including long-term effects of COVID-19, the deaths and the immense impact on families and loved ones of those lost,” the statement says.

“We continue to urge everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated as soon as possible to protect themselves and their loved ones from this disease,” the doctors, hospitals and nurses added. “To help protect those who aren’t yet eligible for vaccination, we also urge the public to continue taking evidence-based public health precautions, such as physical distancing and wearing face masks. Please do your part.”

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Meanwhile, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has released an emergency temporary standard (ETS) requiring companies with more than 100 employees to ensure their workforce is protected through COVID-19 vaccination.

Under the rule, unvaccinated employees will have to produce a negative COVID-19 test result each week before coming to work and wear a face covering when indoors. The OSHA ETS also requires companies with more than 100 employees to provide paid time off for workers to get vaccinated or recover from side effects experienced following each dose, if needed.

Learn more: The AMA has published a resource to answer COVID-19 vaccine FAQs for physicians (PDF), along with a resource to help physicians and practice staff answer patient inquiries about COVID-19 vaccinations (PDF).

Doctors and other health professionals interested in providing COVID-19 vaccination and are part of a health system should reach out to their organization’s point of contact. Physicians and health professionals in independent practice who are interested should contact their state or local immunization program. Find out from the CDC about how to enroll to provide COVID-19 vaccines.