NYS Bar Association recommends making vaccines mandatory once available
Report calls on Health Department to adopt standards for allocation of ventilators and PPE
A successful vaccine for COVID-19 may still be many months away, but once it’s ready the New York State Bar Association says it should be made mandatory for New Yorkers, with exemptions made by doctors.
The Bar Association also called upon the Department of Health to adopt uniform standards for the allocation of ventilators and other personal protective equipment.
“The current pandemic shows us how unsafe we all are when we face a virulent contagious disease without a safe and effective vaccine, widely administered,” said Hermes Fernandez, chair of the NYSBA’s Health Law Section and attorney at Bond, Schoeneck & King.
Those recommendations were made in a report issued by the Health Law Section. The report suggested that these standards for ventilators and PPE should be triggered anytime there are insufficient medical supplies, ICU beds or trained health care workers to meet the needs of all hospital patients.
“The report is a model of scholarship, brimming with expertise and erudition, and it provides analysis and recommendations on vitally important public health issues at a critical moment in our history,” said NYSBA President Hank Greenberg. “It will serve as an indispensable resource for policymakers. I thank the task force’s members for producing a report that illustrates why NYSBA is a state and national thought leader on the great issues of the day.”
Shortages of medical supplies were a major issue for New York and other states in the early stages of the pandemic. Joseph Fins, a Weill Cornell Medicine bioethicist who served as the expert advisor to the Health Law Section, said these shortages could be a persistent issue.
“Despite public declarations to the contrary, there was scarcity and resort to crisis of standards of care in New York City during the COVID-19 surge,” Fins wrote in an upcoming issue of the NYSBA Health Law Journal. “To respond to this dire need, hospitals across the city increased their ICU capacity by over 200-300% … Although the attention was on the shortage of equipment and the built environment, the greater stressor was the lack of adequately trained personnel able to manage critically ill patients.”
The report called the guidelines necessary so that health care providers will have a plan for when resources become scarce. It recommended that the guidelines be reviewed and amended as needed by the DOH.
The report also draws attention to the disproportionate impact COVID-19 has had on Black and Latinx communities and older adults. It made a series of recommendations to mitigate these impacts.
“The cumulative disadvantage of race, ethnicity, age, gender, underlying conditions, and poverty have compounded the detrimental impact of the pandemic across Black/African American and Hispanic/Latinx groups including older adults, nursing home residents, persons who are homeless living in shelters or who are incarcerated, immigrants, and essential workers,” said Mary Beth Morrissey, chair of the section’s Task Force on COVID-19, a fellow at Fordham University’s Global Health Care Innovation Management Center and a faculty member in the graduate schools.
“Nursing homes, in particular, largely segregated before the pandemic, have been crucibles of racialized suffering and racial disparities during the pandemic,” Morrissey said.
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