South Carolina physician: This is why we have COVID vaccine mandates for pubic servants

Published March 24, 2022

By Rob Schofield

Despite the rash of sadly uninformed resistance to COVID vaccine mandates we’ve witnessed in some places over the last year among healthcare providers and other public servants — police officers, firefighters, EMT’s, teachers, and the like — the simple truth is that such mandates are not only essential, but they’ve also been routine for decades.

Yesterday, a longtime friend of NC Policy Watch called our attention to an excellent op-ed that ran in the Charleston, South Carolina Post & Courier on Tuesday of this week by a veteran hospital-based physician and regular editorial page contributor to that paper, Dr. J. Philip Saul. And as Dr. Saul explains, vaccine mandates (and the simple understanding that he would be fired from his job if he attempted to avoid them) have been a part of his life for decades. What’s more, he says, it should be that way.

Here are some excerpts from “This is why we have COVID vaccine mandates for public servants”:

"As a hospital-based physician for more than 40 years, I have always been required to get certain vaccinations or prove my lifelong immunity to the relevant disease in order to be “credentialed” to care for patients. The number of diseases has grown over the years, currently including measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, hepatitis A and B, tetanus and diptheria, and now COVID-19.

"I also have to either get a yearly flu shot or lose my job. In fact, for my last two jobs, I had to prove that I had antibodies to demonstrate immunity for anything I had in the past, such as measles, or get vaccinated. Personally, I like the protection the vaccines give me when working in the hospital and when out and about. But that’s not the main reason hospitals require it. They do it to maximize protection of the public and prevent providers from spreading illness among patients.

"The reason is pretty simple. With the exception of a few planned visits to a primary care provider, patients needing medical attention rarely can choose their providers, particularly in a hospital. There are many care team members, ranging from the cleaning, maintenance and clerical staff to the technicians, nurses and doctors and everyone in between. We shouldn’t forget that for the most part patients are in the hospital or clinic for a reason: They have an illness that might become far worse if they acquire an infection."

Dr. Sauls then goes on to explain why such mandates make perfect sense for firefighters as well. He notes that two-thirds of public calls for firefighter assistance in the modern era are related to medical needs."

While he readily concedes that vaccines aren’t perfect, he notes that they are still by far the best thing going for the prevention of disease spread. As he puts it:

The bottom line is that we doctors, firefighters, EMTs and medical personnel are public servants whose job is to protect and heal those who need our help to the absolute best of our abilities. One of the hallmarks of medical care is the Hippocratic oath: primum non nocere or first, do no harm. How can we do that if we don’t make every effort to prevent giving highly transmissible diseases to those we care for?