Pathology Society First to Call for Nationwide Vaccination Mandate

Ken Terry

August 12, 2021

The American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP), which represents over 100,000 pathologists and medical laboratory professionals, has called for a nationwide vaccination mandate. It is the first medical specialty society to do so, ASCP chief executive officer Blair Holladay, PhD, told Medscape Medical News.

However, the American Lung Association this week said it supports President Biden's call for businesses to require their employees to be vaccinated. In addition, more than 50 medical societies, including ASCP, recently said they support vaccination mandates for healthcare workers.

In a position statement released Wednesday, ASCP recommended that every eligible American be vaccinated. "The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is soon expected to fully approve at least one COVID-19 vaccine, and when it does, we urge that vaccination requirements become the norm," the society said.

Second, ASCP noted that at least 16 states have enacted some form of a ban on COVID-19 vaccine mandates or related requirements. These include blocking employment-based mandates, school vaccination or mask requirements, and vaccine passport requirements.

"These laws prolong the pandemic and threaten the health and safety of every American. They should be repealed or overturned immediately," the association stated.

Third, ASCP said, it supports the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that masks should be worn indoors in public places in areas of substantial or high COVID-19 transmission.

"Before more people die, our elected leaders need to take serious and aggressive action to ensure that Americans get vaccinated, so we can end the pandemic, end patient and family suffering, end the fatalities, and get back to the lives we had before COVID-19," the statement concluded.

Laboratories Have to Focus on COVID Again

In his interview with Medscape, Holladay noted that the eruption of the Delta variant across the country has again forced laboratories to focus on COVID-19 testing at the expense of necessary tests related to other diseases.

"Because 7 of 10 medical decisions depend on the laboratory, anything that interferes with that interferes with the needs of patient care, including preventive, chronic, and acute care services," he said.

This is a major reason, he said, for ASCP to support a national vaccination mandate. "People have postponed treatment because of the inability to access medical care [for other conditions]," he noted. The same is true for preventive or diagnostic care such as biopsies for breast cancer and colonoscopies, he added.

"In many parts of the country, the throughput of COVID tests made it difficult for us to focus on tests for other acute conditions. It overwhelmed the laboratory personnel in terms of the number of tests being run."

Returning to the "Dark Days"

This was a significant issue in the earlier part of the pandemic, Holladay recalled. The shortage of non-COVID lab capacity eased in the spring and early summer of 2021, when COVID-19 vaccines became widely available.

"But with the Delta variant, we're going back to those dark days and creating the same bottleneck that we saw in the beginning," he said.

Although the situation is worse in some states than others, Holladay added, some of the hardest-hit states like Florida and Texas have very large populations.

"This is not just about doctors, nurses, pathologists and laboratory personnel being exhausted," commented Kimberly Sanford, MD, president of ASCP, in a press release. "Laboratory medicine is absolutely necessary for accurate and timely diagnosis of disease, infection control, and effective treatment planning. It is an essential part of the healthcare system and often overwhelmed by the increasing number of coronavirus tests requiring immediate analysis.

"Such testing takes time and disproportionately consumes scarce equipment and other resources. It means those with cancer and other life-threatening conditions face serious delays in diagnosis and treatment. It delays medical diagnoses, erects barriers to preventative care and prevents us from focusing on the significant healthcare needs of the population at-large."

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