Update: Vaccine Mandates, Concerns and Evidence

We want to update our members on issues around the COVID vaccines—including improvements we’ve made through effects bargaining to some of our employers’ implementation plans for the state mandate.

We have been listening to questions and concerns our members have with the vaccines and mandates. We have also tracked the science, data, contractual and legal issues.

We respect the choices our individual members make and are taking all steps available to us as a union to protect those choices.

Science and medicine are rarely about certainty. They’re about following the best evidence and the best practices to achieve the best outcomes—often under intense pressure and time constraints.

On balance, after thoughtful consideration of the questions, concerns, science, and evidence, we support and encourage our members to take the vaccine.

We encourage those members who can’t or choose not to take the vaccine due to health issues or religious beliefs to apply for an exemption and to follow the testing guidelines. We will support you through the exemption process.

Below, we’ve gathered questions and concerns we’ve heard, along with information and studies about the vaccines and mandates.


Effects Bargaining

The first thing to understand is that the vaccine mandate is established by state law, not through collective bargaining. We have no legal standing to oppose the mandate. We do have the power to bargain over the effects of the mandate.

As we gather information about improvements won in effects bargaining with our employers, we’ll add it here:


Concerns and Evidence

Concern: Effectiveness of the vaccines at preventing infection.

Preponderance of Evidence: All of the vaccines are remarkably effective at preventing not just infection, but hospitalization and death. A number of studies over time have shown the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to be around 80-95% effective at preventing infection and even more effective at preventing serious disease or death. The Johnson and Johnson vaccine was judged by the FDA to be 72% effective at preventing infection and 86% effective at preventing severe disease. Another study showed it to be 71% effective against hospitalization and 95% effective against death.

One study suggests that 140,000 deaths and 3 million cases were prevented in the first five months of the U.S. vaccination campaign.

Data from May to July 2021 in L.A. County show unvaccinated people were five times more likely to get COVID-19 and 29 times more likely to be hospitalized than vaccinated people.

An Israeli study among health care workers found a 2.6% COVID breakthrough infection rate—67% of which were mild cases and 33% asymptomatic. The likely source of every infection was an unvaccinated person.

A European study indicates that COVID-19 vaccines help prevent transmission within households, with secondary infection rates dropping from 31% to 11% if the initial party was fully vaccinated.


Concern: The COVID vaccines were developed too quickly, using experimental technology.

Preponderance of Evidence: The severity of the pandemic resulted in a full-court press to produce vaccines. Operation Warp Speed cut red tape and bureaucracy and poured tremendous resources of money and personnel into the effort. Clinical trial phases that normally happen sequentially, one after the other, instead overlapped. No trial phases were skipped. The vaccines continue to be monitored for safety.

The mRNA technology had long been in development and used before in the Zika vaccine, so the manufacturing processes were ready early. Countries shared genetic information about SARS-CoV-2, giving vaccine developers a head start.

Nevertheless, testing was rigorous. Independent scientists validated the data. Clinical trials involved tens of thousands of volunteers. The vaccinations were shown to be remarkably effective at preventing infection, leading to emergency use authorization by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). Companies had begun producing stores of vaccine ahead of the emergency use authorization so they were ready for distribution when approved.


Concern: Taking the vaccine can be worse than getting COVID-19, due to possible side effects.

Preponderance of Evidence: Studies show the disease is far riskier than the vaccines. The risk of illness, hospitalization and death following the shot is far lower than the danger from becoming infected with COVID-19 itself—which has infected 35 million Americans and killed more than 614,000.

The largest real-world study to date shows that the risks for the worst potential side effects from the Pfizer vaccine are considerably less than the risks of those same conditions from the disease itself. For example, myocarditis, with a risk difference of 2.7 events per 100,000 people from the vaccine vs. 11.0 events per 100,000 for those infected with COVID-19.


Concern: Catching COVID-19 from the vaccines.

Preponderance of Evidence: It’s impossible to catch the disease from the mRNA vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna, because they contain no virus or infectious materials. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine contains a harmless shell virus (not COVID—19) which carries genetic code from the spike protein to train the body’s immune system.


Concern: Can vaccines interfere with fertility?

Preponderance of Evidence: The vaccine will not affect fertility. A false report circulated on social media suggesting that the COVID spike protein was similar to one involved in attachment of the placenta during pregnancy. In fact, the two spike proteins are completely different. 23 women volunteers became pregnant during the Pfizer trials. Getting COVID-19 while pregnant, however, can have serious impacts on the pregnancy and the mother’s health.


Concern: Many public health officials and nurses don’t support the vaccine.

Preponderance of Evidence: One journalist confidentially asked more than 200 epidemiologists, virologists, infectious disease experts, public health officials, and others, whether they believed the benefits of COVID-19 vaccinations outweighed potential harms and whether they’d recommend the shots to their own children aged 12-18. 203 were in favor of the vaccines and zero against.

88% of 4,900 nurses polled by the ANA (American Nursing Association) were vaccinated or planned to get vaccinated.

The ANA and AMA (American Medical Association) both support mandated vaccines for nurses and health care professionals—along with numerous other professional organizations, including the American Pharmacists Association (APhA).