The COVID-19 pandemic permeated activities at a Special Meeting of the American Medical Association House of Delegates, culminating in passage of two public health measures designed to help contain the disease.
With the support of the Texas Medical Association delegation, the house voted to create a program that educates both physicians and the public about COVID-19 vaccines.
So far, two vaccines – one produced by Pfizer and one by Moderna – are reportedly at least 90% effective in preventing COVID-19. However, public opinion polls show widespread public skepticism about the vaccines.
The new policy calls on AMA to form a coalition of medical and public health organizations – including groups representing physicians, nurses, hospitals, and public health – to develop and implement an education program promoting facts about the COVID-19 vaccines.
The measure also calls on AMA to continue monitoring the COVID-19 vaccines to ensure evidence supports their ongoing use.
Delegates, including the Texas delegation, also directed AMA to champion improved public health programs to prepare for pandemics and find solutions to ongoing health inequities. The measure, which mirrors TMA’s priorities for the upcoming session of the Texas Legislature, also called on AMA to study and recommend the best ways to improve public health nationwide.
Yet another policy the house adopted calls on AMA to advocate for policies that prevent evictions and the shutoff of utilities during public health emergencies.
Anmol Gupta, a student at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, argued in favor of the resolution, pointing out some of the difficulties Houstonians faced in September from flooding caused by Tropical Storm Beta.
“While some of us were cleaning up debris, restocking essentials, or managing a day or two without power, 600 Houstonians in that week alone were on the court docket to be evicted,” he testified during a reference committee meeting. “Thousands more were at risk of getting their utilities shut off for good once the state’s moratorium on utilities [expired] on October 1.”
Delegates adopted other public health policies that direct AMA to:
- Address physician wellness, burnout, and suicide by advocating that “physicians, medical students and all members of the health care team maintain self-care, and are supported by their institutions in their self-care efforts.” That support should include “access to affordable health care, including mental and physical health care,” as well as access to out-of-network care “in person and/or via telemedicine.”
- Help develop workplace policies designed to prevent and address bullying in medicine.
- Support policies that facilitate compassionate release for incarcerated patients on the basis of serious medical conditions and advanced age.
- Work toward reducing physical threats and violence directed at health care professionals and to educate the public about the prevalence of this problem.
- Work toward prioritizing vaccinations for people who are incarcerated – and the workers who oversee them – while also improving their access to personal protective equipment (PPE) and quarantines.
- Initiate several steps designed to improve physician access to PPE.
- Encourage the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study and issue guidance on the most effective strategies to reduce the spread of influenza in hospitals.