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Should Hospitals Employ Unvaccinated Hospital Staff?

As vaccine mandates within healthcare organizations become more common, Bioethics Lecturer David N. Hoffman, JD considers how these mandates impact vaccinated and unvaccinated hospital employment and patient conditions. In an essay published on the Hastings Center’s website, Hoffman states that with the COVID-19 Delta variant on the rise, vaccination among health care workers is an “ethical obligation to prioritize the health and well-being of patients.”

Hoffman lists two dilemmas. First, with only “50% among nurses and other health care workers” vaccinated, hospitals have a dilemma in deciding whether the unvaccinated half of their staff should continue working at the hospital. If so, hospitals would be faced with a second dilemma: are unvaccinated staff qualified to provide care to all vaccinated and unvaccinated patients?

“Given the ethical imperative to implement vaccine mandates as a condition of hospital employment, it would be intellectually dishonest not to prioritize the treatment of patients who are willing to meet their care providers halfway and get vaccinated if they are able to,” Hoffman writes. “This is true even though the unvaccinated patient may actually be at greater risk of morbidity and mortality.”

Read Hoffman’s article in full here.