Statement on Early Access to COVID-19 Vaccination for Anesthesia Professionals

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Patient safety is at the core of ASA’s vision and values. Therefore, the American Society of Anesthesiologists believes that as vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) become available that are recommended by the scientific community and FDA-approved, early access to vaccination should be provided to people at greatest risk for severe illness. This subdivision of the population, documented by multiple studies identifying risk factors for mortality following infection with SARS-CoV-2, needs to be protected as urgently as possible.

After those at greatest risk for serious illness, we advocate early access to vaccination for front-line health care professionals who regularly provide direct bedside care for all patients, especially those patients who are known or are suspected to be infected with SARS-CoV-2. These health care professionals are essential to keep health care resources and personnel available to address all forms of acute illnesses.

Physician anesthesiologists lead a team of health care professionals who provide direct bedside care in operating rooms, labor and delivery suites, and other procedural locations, as well as in emergency rooms and critical care units. Members of this team routinely assist with or perform aerosol-generating airway interventions that require enhanced personal protective equipment to mitigate the risk of airborne transmission. Because COVID-19 patients may be either asymptomatic or in the incubation phase of the infection, when polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing results may be falsely negative, patients screened for symptoms and PCR-tested in advance may still transmit the disease during these airway interventions. The daily work of this team of professionals puts them and their families at risk for acquiring COVID-19, and if the disease is contracted, subsequent illness and/or mandatory isolation will adversely affect the availability of medical care for all patients. For these reasons, physician anesthesiologists and the other health care professionals with whom they work should be offered early access to vaccination concurrent with other health care professionals at comparable exposure risk.

Recognizing that vaccines may be in very limited supply for many months after approval, we also urge that the CDC and other agencies of the federal government identify geographic regions at heightened risk of outbreaks and offer vaccination to all involved health care professionals to ensure the continued availability of health care services.