Why Mandating the COVID-19 Vaccine is Necessary
Cook Children’s Health Care System is taking a swing at COVID-19 by requiring its workforce to be fully vaccinated by noon on Sept. 27.
This means all employees, physicians, providers, credentialed staff, students, volunteers, contractors and on-site vendors will have to receive either one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine or two doses of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine by the deadline.
Why is Cook Children’s taking this step?
Because COVID-19 is spreading like wildfire among unvaccinated people in Tarrant County and surrounding areas. The highly contagious delta variant has taken hold and is driving up hospitalizations across age groups.
“We are seeing more children sick with COVID-19 than we have seen in months,” said Mary Suzanne Whitworth, M.D., medical director of Infectious Diseases at Cook Children’s. “We were very hopeful that the worst was behind us but that may not be true. The rate of COVID-19 cases being diagnosed at Cook Children’s is alarming. This is not a slow upward trend, it is a rapid and dramatic rise in cases not seen since November of 2020.”
As of Tuesday, 23 patients were being treated for COVID-19 at Cook Children’s, which is a figure not seen since the height of the pandemic in January. On top of that, nearly 100 new cases are being diagnosed in children each day. The rate of positive COVID-19 cases seen at Cook Children’s in a seven day period is now 11.2%. On June 2, that number was 1%.
“What’s happening at Cook Children’s is a reflection of what’s happening across the county and region,” said Dr. Whitworth. “With vaccination rates in the community below 50%, and the delta variant spreading rapidly, the stage is set for an outbreak similar to, if not worse than, last winter.”
Dr. Whitworth says it’s also important to recall that children under the age of 12 are not yet able to get vaccinated. While most children do not typically get as sick from COVID-19 as adults, that is not the case for all kids. It’s a myth that children don’t get severely ill from COVID-19. In fact, Cook Children’s treated hundreds of hospitalized patients with the virus over the past 17 months.
Kids are also at risk of developing multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), which usually develops about four weeks after a COVID-19 infection (even if the child never had any symptoms). Initial symptoms of MIS-C include fever, rashes, red eyes, diarrhea and vomiting. The inflammation from MIS-C can affect the heart, blood vessels and other organs, making it essential for them to receive high level medical care.
For Rick W. Merrill, president and CEO of Cook Children’s, the decision to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine among the health care system’s workforce was made with children in mind.
“The delta variant is very contagious and many of our patients are vulnerable to COVID-19 because they can’t get vaccinated at this time,” said Merrill. “I personally received the vaccine in December, as did more than 95% of our physicians and two thirds of our employees. Given how close we are to critically-ill children, we know this is the right decision for our system and ultimately our patients.”
While Cook Children’s is doing its part to lower the spread of the virus through mandatory vaccination, now is the time for everyone in the community to do what they can as well. This means getting vaccinated, wearing a mask, social distancing and practicing good hand hygiene. Together, we can slow the spread of COVID-19.
COVID-19 Cases Across Cook Children's Health Care System - August 4, 2021