Many frontline health care workers in the United States are receiving their second dose of coronavirus vaccinations. Hospitals have largely done an outstanding job of following federal and state guidelines during distribution and rapidly making sure that hospital employees have had the opportunity to be fully vaccinated. In most cases, hospitals have focused on rapid implementation rather than splitting hairs when deciding who should get vaccinated first. Right or wrong, they have avoided making vaccination mandatory. Surprisingly, only about half of health care workers have taken advantage of the opportunity to get vaccinated. However, it seems likely that many of those who have opted out are just waiting on the sidelines, monitoring the response of their coworkers who were vaccinated early before jumping on board.
It is important for hospitals to now consider all of the other people in the hospital who are risking their lives every day to help take care of hospitalized patients but are not hospital employees. These include emergency medical technicians and other first responders coming in and out of the Emergency Departments around the country. These people are licensed by the state, and should be easy to identify and vaccinate. However, the people in the hospital also include our colleagues who work for industry. At many hospitals, an industry representative is present for most electrophysiology procedures. Device reps support implantation of pacemakers and defibrillators by providing the devices and supplies as well as by providing expertise during testing and programming of the device at the time of implantation. Mapping system reps operate the 3D mapping systems used during nearly all catheter ablation procedures. These people allow for hospitals to not have to maintain their own implantable device inventory or to hire and train additional EP lab technicians. Although these reps are rarely taking care of known COVID+ patients, they are often in the EP lab during cases where patients are intubated or undergoing a transesophageal echocardiogram when the virus can be aerosolized, and must don full PPE. At many hospitals, they are also asked to manage devices before and after surgery and MRIs, as well as help in the evaluation of patients with devices in the Emergency Department.
Unfortunately, like most of Americans, most EP lab industry reps who regularly have direct patient contact have not been vaccinated. They certainly should be considered before hospital administrators and other hospital employees who do not have direct patient care responsibilities.1 When the question “Has your hospital offered vaccinations yet to the EP industry representatives who support your EP procedures?” was asked in a recent Twitter poll,2 only 23% responded “yes.” Ultimately, it is up to their employers to help them receive a vaccine, but it seems unlikely that these companies will have direct access to the vaccine. In some cases, hospitals have considered industry reps during the first phase of vaccines, and in other cases, the state Department of Health has been able to provide vaccines. EP lab industry representatives are invaluable to hospitals and patients. Let’s consider them frontline health care workers and help them get vaccinated soon.
Mandavilli A. At elite medical centers, even workers who don’t qualify are vaccinated. New York Times. Accessed January 11, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/10/health/coronavirus-hospitals-vaccinations.html
@DrBradleyKnight. “Has your hospital offered vaccinations yet to the EP industry representatives who support your EP procedures? #EPeeps”. January 11, 2021. Accessed January 11, 2021. https://twitter.com/DrBradleyKnight/status/1348342074869997570