American Medical Women’s Association Opposes Legislation that Poses Risk to the Safety and Health of the Public
Authors: Katrina Green, MD, April Barnard, MSc, and Theresa Rohr-Kirchgraber, MD with the Advocacy Committee of AMWA
The American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA) supports strengthening mandatory vaccination laws and mask requirements and believes that lawmakers have a responsibility to put public safety first by ensuring public health, which will quell the threat of serious but preventable diseases such as COVID-19.
On October 27, during a third special session, Tennessee House and Senate members passed an omnibus bill, HB9077/SB9014, that combined nearly 100 bills designed to roll back COVID mandates. The proposed legislation would undermine public health by weakening the power of qualified professionals to perform their duties and deliver quality patient care.
HB9078 seems aimed to ban most businesses from requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination from customers or employees.
HB9020 would block the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners from disciplining doctors for anything “solely related to the physician’s prescription, recommendation, use, or opinion relative to a treatment for COVID-19,” including treatments that aren’t approved by the state’s health department or the Drug Administration.
HB9076/SB9013 grants the governor exclusive power to issue executive orders and directives with respect to each county health department in the state of Tennessee. The proposed bill would strip county health departments of all authority during a pandemic and place the fate of public health in the hands of county mayors.
COVID Risks Highest in States Ignoring Basic Healthcare Recommendations for Vaccine and Masking
In only 20 months, confirmed COVID cases have risen to a record 200 million infected individuals and over four million deaths. While the numbers have been trending down in recent months, the appearance of the Delta variant led to a disastrous resurgence in global coronavirus cases. Alarmingly, the Delta variant is infecting and hospitalizing the younger population in greater numbers than before. Unfortunately, scientists predict that the Delta variant and the resurging deaths are not a temporary blip, and pose a much greater risk to those who are unvaccinated and opting against wearing masks.
Findings from a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) suggest that statewide mask mandates are associated with statistically significant declines in weekly COVID-19 hospitalization growth rates for adults aged 18–64 years. Further, previous studies have shown that the various physical distancing measures, including mask mandates, are associated with immediate declines in COVID-19 case growth rates.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, many experts rank vaccines among the greatest public health achievements that science has ever produced. The overwhelming scientific consensus is that vaccine risks are small and their benefits are large. Due in large part to the ingenuity and innovation of some of the most eminent scientists in the world, the United States can offer several CDC and FDA-approved vaccines to help combat the spread of COVID.
One of the reasons that legislatures pass mandates and courts uphold these health precautions is the abundant evidence supporting the benefits of these mandates in lessening serious illness and avoidable deaths, and, in doing so, assuring that children and vulnerable members of the community are protected. These mandates fit with AMWA physicians’ basic principles of reasonable limits on individual rights for the betterment of community health. Health mandates are also supported by a hundred years of court precedent.
In summary, AMWA continues to endorse evidence-based, medically sound precautions for infectious diseases; this includes mask and vaccine requirements. To stem the spread of coronavirus, it is imperative that qualified professionals in county health departments. not local politicians remain the voice of local healthcare decisions so they can perform their essential function, particularly during a global pandemic. Equally important, any physician who offers misinformation regarding treatment and vaccination for COVID should be held accountable. The safety and efficacy of masks and vaccines are well documented and should remain the leading measures that keep women in the healthcare community and every individual in the community at large, safe during this ongoing health crisis.