1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East – Florida Statement on rollout of COVID-19 vaccinesDecember 29, 2020
While Florida has been a hot spot of the COVID-19 pandemic that has ravaged our communities and economy for nine months, the hardworking members of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East have served on the front lines, bravely fighting to save lives despite the dangers of contracting the disease and endangering themselves and their loved ones. Sadly, many have become ill, and some have died.
The recent FDA approval of at least two COVID-19 vaccines is a critical step in putting an end to this unprecedented crisis and protecting the health of our members, their patients and the public. After meeting strict FDA and other safety standards, we encourage our members to take the vaccine when available.
Of course, there are concerns about potential side effects, as well as our nation’s history of medical discrimination, but we believe that the development and trials have been thorough to date, and that information on the vaccine efficacy has been clear and forthcoming. After what we have seen over the last nine months, the risks of doing nothing are more dangerous.
However, employers must not make vaccination mandatory. Our Florida healthcare workers are the best equipped to make the best individual choice for themselves. In addition, the availability of a vaccine must not be used as a substitute for other important aspects of safety, such as proper personal protective equipment (PPE); safe staffing levels; paid sick time; quarantine and hazard pay; and other important protocols.
Vaccine distribution must be equitable and transparent and must prioritize communities hardest hit by the virus, including essential workers, people with underlying health conditions and disproportionately-impacted communities of color. Initial vaccine supplies must be directed to the state’s hospitals and healthcare facilities, especially nursing homes that have been hit so hard. Nearly half of the 20,000 COVID-related deaths in Florida have been nursing home residents or staff.
This emergency was made incalculably worse by the Trump administration and its supporters in Tallahassee who throughout 2020 have downplayed the health threats, spread misinformation, ignored public medical experts and stood idly by as more than one million Floridians contracted COVID-19. While this national administration ends next month, we will hold Florida officials accountable for the safe, rapid and responsible rollout of these vaccines that can finally contain the deadly virus and help all of us move beyond this crisis in the New Year and throughout 2021.
1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East Florida represents more than 24,000 nurses and healthcare workers throughout the state. The organization is the largest and fastest-growing healthcare union in America. Our mission is to achieve affordable, high quality healthcare for all. 1199SEIU is part of the 2.1 million-member Service Employees International Union.