Is Informed Consent Being Used as a Guise for Spreading Misinformation?

The website for the group Physicians for Informed Consent (PIC) reads like an apolitical, educational resource that provides information on vaccines and why they shouldn’t be government-mandated. Its mission is “that doctors and the public are able to evaluate the data on infectious diseases and vaccines objectively, and voluntarily engage in informed decision-making about vaccination.”

The group’s accompanying social media accounts, however, tell a different story. On PIC’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn feeds, you’ll find post after post about reasons to be scared of vaccinesespecially for children – often highlighting selective portions of scientific research that contain vaccination risks.

Who’s Behind PIC?

The group was founded in 2015 after California passed a law that prohibited the use of personal belief exemptions from vaccinations required for children to attend any public or private school in the state.

Three years later, the number of waivers issued by doctors to parents seeking medical exemptions for their children tripled. As a result, another law was passed in 2019, cracking down on the inappropriate use of medical exemptions.

The group’s founder, Shira Miller, MD, is a concierge integrative medicine doctor based in Los Angeles, specializing in menopausal care. On her own Twitter profile, she describes herself as “Facebook’s Most Popular Menopause Doctor.”

Miller earned her medical degree in 2002 from Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel, and has reportedly been working as a concierge physician since 2010.

PIC’s leadership team also includes 20 physicians from a wide range of specialties, most of whom, like Miller, don’t specialize in infectious diseases.

Among its leaders is Paul Thomas, MD, an Oregon-based pediatrician. Thomas, who is listed as one of PIC’s founding directors, was issued an emergency suspension order of his medical license in 2021 by the state medical board, in which they cited at least eight cases of alleged patient harm. In line with PIC’s philosophy, Thomas maintains that he isn’t “anti-vax” – he’s pro-informed-consent.

Also on the team is Jane Orient, MD, internist and executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), a group that also opposes vaccine mandates. Orient received her medical degree from Columbia University and currently practices in Arizona. In 2020, the AAPS sued the federal government for withholding its stockpile of hydroxychloroquine from COVID patients, despite research showing that the drug is ineffective. The complaint was dismissed in September 2021.

Doug Mackenzie, MD, a plastic surgeon who graduated from Johns Hopkins University of Medicine, is PIC’s treasurer. He has previously identified himself as an “ex-vaxxer” rather than an anti-vaxxer when speaking on a panel in 2019.

The only RN on the team is Tawny Buettner. After California mandated vaccinations for healthcare workers, Buettner organized a protest outside of her place of work, Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego; she later sued the hospital after she was dismissed from her job. According to the complaint, Buettner and the 36 other plaintiffs alleged that their requests for religious exemptions from the COVID-19 vaccine were all denied.

Kenneth Stoller, MD, also listed on the leadership team, graduated from the American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine and completed pediatric residency training at the University of California Los Angeles. Stoller was disciplined in 2019 for doling out medical exemptions to children without adequate evidence. According to state records, his license in California has since been revoked; he currently holds a medical license in New Mexico.

What’s PIC?

The most notable physician groups accused of spreading COVID-19 misinformation since the vaccine rollout have been affiliated with right-wing media, if not overtly proclaiming conservative, anti-vaccination beliefs.

For example, America’s Frontline Doctors, a group notorious for its support of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19, has made its values well-known. The group’s founder, Simone Gold, MD, JD, was arrested for participating in the Jan. 6 capitol riot and has openly opposed mask-wearing. Similarly, physician leaders of the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance, known for promoting the use of ivermectin to treat COVID-19, tout their appearances on the ultra-conservative Newsmax on the website’s homepage.

PIC wants to be different. The group’s focus, according to its general counsel Greg Glaser, JD, of Copperopolis, California, is on the “authoritative citations that show, or calculate, the risks [of vaccines] to the public,” he told MedPage Today.

“We are pro-informed consent, pro-ethics, pro-health. PIC is not anti-vaccine, and PIC is not pro-vaccine – PIC is neutral,” Glaser said on behalf of the group.

In August 2021, Glaser submitted an amicus brief to the Supreme Court PIC’s behalf, arguing against the implementation of vaccine mandates. The document claims that “government statements confirm there is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19,” ignoring the breadth of existing literature that says otherwise.

‘Extremely erroneous’? Some health systems say hospital vaccination data is seriously flawed.

Health Workers Protest Hospital Systems' COVID-19 Vaccine Requirements |  Wisconsin Public Radio

CMS is preparing to enforce its vaccine mandate for health care workers, but the agency may not have an accurate count of how many remain unvaccinated—and five health systems are pushing back on federal hospital vaccination data, calling it “extremely erroneous,” Cheryl Clark writes for MedPage Today.

Background

The Supreme Court earlier this month ruled that CMS could require most health care workers to be vaccinated against Covid-19—but U.S. officials currently do not know exactly how many workers remain unvaccinated, primarily due to a lack of reliable immunization data.

At the end of December, CDC reported that 77.6% of hospital workers were fully vaccinated. However, that figure was based on data from only about 40% of the nation’s hospitals. Hospitals currently send vaccination data to the agency on a voluntary basis, but beginning May 15, they will be required to send in weekly data, just like nursing homes have been.

According to Janis Orlowski, chief health care officer at the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), CDC’s data is likely representative of providers nationwide, as an AAMC survey of 125 academic hospitals found similar results. More than 99% of doctors and close to 90% of nurses were vaccinated, she said, but vaccination rates dropped off to the 30% to 40% range for those in more operational roles, such as transportation and food service workers.

Is federal vaccination data for hospitals inaccurate?

Further adding to the confusion about health care workers’ vaccination rates are potential inaccuracies in a federal database that tracks Covid-19 vaccinations among workers in hospitals across the country. According to five health systems listed as having the highest numbers of unvaccinated workers, the database is “extremely erroneous,” Clark writes.

In the database, Adventist Health Orlando (AHO) is shown to have 18,576 unvaccinated workers, 637 partially vaccinated workers, and 25,253 fully vaccinated workers. However, Jeff Grainger, director of external communications for AdventHealth in Central Florida, said those numbers weren’t possible since the organization “[doesn’t] have 44,000 employees in one hospital.” He added that 96% of AHO’s team members have already complied with CMS’ mandate.

The University of Illinois Hospital (UI) was listed in the database as having 12,049 unvaccinated workers and 272 partially vaccinated workers. Jacqueline Carey, from health system’s public affairs department, disputed these numbers, saying UI had 6,530 workers as of Jan. 19, with 96% of them fully vaccinated. The remainder were either partially vaccinated or had approved exemptions.

The hospital with the third highest number of unvaccinated workers was Mount Sinai Hospital, Clark writes, but Lucia Lee, a hospital spokesperson, said the federal data was inaccurate. According to Lee, Mount Sinai Health System, of which the hospital is a part, has vaccinated 99% of its more than 43,000 employees.

A representative for Ochsner Medical Center, which is listed as having the fourth highest number of unvaccinated workers, also pushed back on the statistics in the database. Currently, 99.57% of Ochsner’s over 34,000 employees are compliant with its Covid-19 policy, with 95% of workers Ochsner Health and Ochsner LSU Health Shreveport fully vaccinated.

Finally, Kena Lewis, a spokesperson for Orlando Regional Medical Center, said that federal data showing the hospital has 44,154 workers is inaccurate. Instead, she said the hospital is one of 10 in the Orlando network, which has 23,709 total employees. Although Lewis did not give the health system’s vaccination rates, she said it “continues to review the guidelines regarding Covid-19 vaccination requirements for health care organizations and will take appropriate steps.”

Although it is not clear why there are discrepancies between the federal data and what these health systems are reporting regarding vaccination rates, there are some potential explanations, Clark writes.

According to Carey, the federal database only includes vaccination information provided by the UI health system and employee health services. This means that vaccinations workers received elsewhere, such as through a personal provider or pharmacy, are not included in the data, and they will show up as being unvaccinated.

Separately, a spokesperson for another of the five organizations told Clark on background that short-term nursing staff contracted through agencies may show up as unvaccinated in the federal database. Although the agencies assure employers the nurses are vaccinated, hospitals do not independently verify this information.

New Jersey requires boosters for healthcare staff

New Jersey requires COVID-19 vaccine for health care workers, ending test  option - 6abc Philadelphia

Workers in New Jersey healthcare facilities and high-risk congregate settings like hospitals and nursing homes will be required to be up to date with their COVID-19 vaccinations, including a booster, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Jan. 19.

Mr. Murphy said there would no longer be an option to opt out of vaccination through testing, except for the purposes of providing an accommodation for people exempt from vaccination.

New Jersey healthcare facilities’ covered workers subject to the CMS vaccination mandate for healthcare settings were already required to ensure covered employees received at least one vaccine by Jan. 27 and completed their primary vaccine series by Feb. 28. Mr. Murphy said the state is now requiring proof that these workers are up to date with their vaccination by Feb. 28, which also includes any booster shots for which they are eligible. Noncompliant workers risk losing their jobs.

Workers at covered healthcare settings not subject to the CMS mandate and covered high-risk congregate settings like prisons and jails have until Feb. 16 to receive their first dose of the primary vaccine series and must submit proof that they are up to date with their vaccination by March 30. Mr. Murphy said workers who become newly eligible for a booster after the two deadlines must submit proof of their booster shot within three weeks of becoming eligible. 

“With the highly transmissible omicron variant spreading across the country and New Jersey, it is essential that we do everything we can to protect our most vulnerable populations,” Mr. Murphy said in a news release. “With immunity waning approximately five months after a primary COVID-19 vaccination, receiving a booster dose is necessary to protect yourself and those around you. It is critically important that we slow the spread throughout our healthcare and congregate settings in order to protect our vulnerable populations and the staff that care for them.”

The rule in New Jersey, which was issued through an executive order, comes after New York and California also announced booster requirements for healthcare staff. 

Good morning. Omicron is in retreat. What’s next?

Fewer fevers
The latest Omicron developments continue to be encouraging. New Covid-19 cases are plummeting in a growing list of places. The percentage of cases causing severe illness is much lower than it was with the Delta variant. And vaccines — particularly after a booster shot — remain extremely effective in preventing hospitalization and death.
I also think it’s time to begin considering what life after the Omicron wave might look like.
1. Plunging cases
Since early last week, new cases in Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey and New York have fallen by more than 30 percent. They’re down by more than 10 percent in Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. In California, cases may have peaked.
“Let’s be clear on this — we are winning,” Mayor Eric Adams of New York said yesterday. Kathy Hochul, the governor of New York State, said during a budget speech, “We hope to close the books on this winter surge soon.”
If anything, the official Covid numbers probably understate the actual declines, because test results are often a few days behind reality.
The following data comes from Kinsa, a San Francisco company that tracks 2.5 million internet-connected thermometers across the country. It uses that data to estimate the percentage of Americans who have a fever every day. The declines over the past week have been sharp, which is a sign of Omicron’s retreat:

Many hospitals are still coping with a crushing number of patients, because Covid hospitalization trends often trail case trends by about a week. But even the hospital data shows glimmers of good news: The number of people hospitalized with Covid has begun declining over the past few days in places where Omicron arrived first:

The U.S. seems to be following a similar Omicron pattern as South Africa, Britain and several other countries: A rapid, enormous surge for about a month, followed by a rapid decline — first in cases, then hospitalizations and finally deaths.
(Look up official numbers for your state and county.)
2. Low risks
Some of the clearest research on Covid’s risks comes from a team of British researchers led by Dr. Julia Hippisley-Cox of the University of Oxford. The team has created an online calculator that allows you to enter a person’s age, vaccination status, height and weight, as well as major Covid risk factors. (It’s based on an analysis of British patients, but its conclusions are relevant elsewhere.)
A typical 65-year-old American woman — to take one example — is five foot three inches tall and weighs 166 pounds. If she had been vaccinated and did not have a major Covid risk factor, like an organ transplant, her chance of dying after contracting Covid would be 1 in 872, according to the calculator. For a typical 65-year-old man, the risk would be 1 in 434.
Among 75-year-olds, the risk would be 1 in 264 for a typical woman and 1 in 133 for a typical man.
Those are meaningful risks. But they are not larger than many other risks older people face. In the 2019-20 flu season, about 1 out of every 138 Americans 65 and older who had flu symptoms died from them, according to the C.D.C.
And Omicron probably presents less risk than the British calculator suggests, because it uses data through the first half of 2021, when the dominant version of Covid was more severe than Omicron appears to be. One sign of Omicron’s relative mildness: Among vaccinated people in Utah (a state that publishes detailed data), the percentage of cases leading to hospitalization has been only about half as high in recent weeks as it was last summer.
For now, the available evidence suggests that Omicron is less threatening to a vaccinated person than a normal flu. Obviously, the Omicron wave has still been damaging, because the variant is so contagious that it has infected tens of millions of Americans in a matter of weeks. Small individual risks have added up to large societal damage.
3. Effective boosters
The final major piece of encouraging news involves booster shots: They are highly effective at preventing severe illness from Omicron. The protection is “remarkably high,” as Dr. Eric Topol of Scripps Research wrote.
Switzerland has begun reporting Covid deaths among three different groups of people: the unvaccinated; the vaccinated who have not received a booster shot; and the vaccinated who have been boosted (typically with a third shot). The first two shots still provide a lot of protection, but the booster makes a meaningful difference, as Edouard Mathieu and Max Roser of Our World in Data have noted:
The next stage
The Covid situation in the U.S. remains fairly grim, with overwhelmed hospitals and nearly 2,000 deaths a day. It’s likely to remain grim into early February. Caseloads are still high in many communities, and death trends typically lag case trends by three weeks.
But the full picture is less grim than the current moment.
Omicron appears to be in retreat, even if the official national data doesn’t yet reflect that reality. Omicron also appears to be mild in a vast majority of cases, especially for the vaccinated. This combination means that the U.S. may be only a few weeks away from the most encouraging Covid situation since early last summer, before the Delta variant emerged.
If that happens — and there is no guarantee it will, as Katherine Wu of The Atlantic explains — it will be time to ask how society can move back toward normalcy and reduce the harsh toll that pandemic isolation has inflicted, particularly on children and disproportionately on low-income children.
When should schools resume all activities? When should offices reopen? When should masks come off? When should asymptomatic people stop interrupting their lives because of a Covid exposure? Above all, when does Covid prevention do more harm — to physical and mental health — than good?
These are tricky questions, and they could often sound inappropriate during the Omicron surge. Now, though, the surge is receding.

Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for healthcare workers is a go

https://mailchi.mp/92a96980a92f/the-weekly-gist-january-14-2022?e=d1e747d2d8

Explainer: The legal challenges awaiting Biden's vaccine mandate | Reuters

Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for healthcare workers is a go, but its mandate for large employers and at-home testing plan face roadblocks. The US Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the vaccine mandate for the nation’s healthcare workers at facilities participating in Medicare and Medicaid can go forward while lower courts hear legal challenges. But it said that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) did not have the authority to enforce the broader vaccine-or-test mandate for businesses over 100 employees, which would have covered more than 80 million private sector workers.

Meanwhile, private insurers are required to begin covering eight at-home tests per beneficiary per month starting tomorrow. The roughly half of Americans with private insurance coverage stand to benefit, if they’re lucky enough to get their hands on rapid tests, which have been in increasingly scarce supply.

The Gist: Health systems that were early to issue vaccine mandates will have a leg up on others who paused requirements amid ongoing legal challenges. Lagging facilities now have a little over a month to start enforcement amid troublesome staffing shortages.

Also, the use of the private insurance system to cover at-home tests not only excludes nearly 40 million seniors on traditional Medicare, as well as the uninsured, but means that the cost of tests will ultimately be borne by consumers and employers through higher insurance premiums.

New York City leads spike in child hospitalizations nationwide

https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2021/12/28/covid-omicron-variant-live-updates/#link-YQZ3GRUNBRGH5B5UBBC33IGWV4

COVID-19 Still Rare in Kids, But Far From Harmless: Study

The number of children with covid-19 recently hospitalized in New York City has increased by nearly five times this month, state officials said at a news conference Monday.

For the week from Dec. 5, 22 children with covid-19 were admitted to hospitals in the city. During a five-day period beginning on Dec. 19, that figure rose to 109, reflecting a broader national surge in coronavirus infections driven in part by the omicron variant. Daily case counts in recent days have climbed to levels not seen since last winter, when coronavirus vaccines weren’t widely available, though the total number of hospitalizations is still significantly lower.

The increase in pediatric covid patients in New York City has been mirrored nationwide. As of last week, nearly 2,000 confirmed or suspected pediatric covid patients were hospitalized nationally, a 31 percent jump in 10 days.

New York City officials are hoping a city mandate that took effect Monday requiring workers at an estimated 184,000 businesses to get at least one vaccine dose will curb infections. “We need more and more people vaccinated,” Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) told reporters. “We need to keep doubling down on vaccination to get out of the covid era once and for all.”

De Blasio’s office announced the mandate earlier this month, just days after health officials disclosed the first case of the more transmissible omicron variant in the United States. But the mayor leaves office in a few days. Kathryn Wylde, president of the Partnership for New York City, a major corporate advocacy group, said she hopes Mayor-elect Eric Adams (D) will show flexibility in enforcement, the Associated Press reported.

Roughly 92 percent of the city’s adult population has received at least one dose of a vaccine, municipal data show, while 83 percent of adults are considered fully immunized. Youth vaccination rates remain lower: Nearly half the children ages 5 to 17 have not yet received a single dose, according to the city government.

Federal appeals court revives Biden’s vaccine mandate for health workers in 26 states

https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/hospitals/federal-appeals-court-revives-biden-s-vax-mandate-for-health-workers-26-states?utm_source=email&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=HC-NL-FierceHealthcare&oly_enc_id=8564C4000334E5C

A federal appeals court has reinstated in 26 states a Biden administration vaccination mandate for health workers at hospitals that receive federal funding.

A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans ruled (PDF) that a lower court had the authority to block the mandate in only the 14 states that had sued and was wrong to impose a nationwide injunction.

It marks a modest win for the Biden administration’s pandemic strategy following a series of legal setbacks to the health worker vaccine mandate. Numerous lawsuits have been filed seeking to block vaccine mandates issued by governments and businesses as public health measures amid a pandemic that has killed more than 800,000 Americans.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced in early November that it would be requiring applicable healthcare facilities to have a policy in place ensuring that eligible staff receive their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine series by Dec. 5 and to have completed their series by Jan. 4, 2022. Failure to comply with the requirement, which covers 17 million healthcare workers, would place an organization’s Medicare funding in jeopardy.

But the mandate was blocked before the deadline and remains temporarily blocked in 24 states: the 14 states involved in the case reviewed by the New Orleans appeals court and 10 states where the mandate was blocked by a Nov. 29 ruling from a federal judge in St. Louis.

The 14 states that sued are Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia.

In the lawsuits, states argued that CMS exceeded its authority with the rule and did not have good cause to forego the required notice and comment period. States that sued the Biden administration over the vaccine mandate also cited the ongoing workforce shortages affecting healthcare providers in their states.

In explaining its ruling, the 5th Circuit noted that the Louisiana-based federal judge had given “little justification for issuing an injunction outside the 14 states that brought this suit.”

As it stands, the vaccine requirement for Medicare and Medicaid providers is blocked by courts in about half of U.S. states but not in the other half, creating the potential for patchwork enforcement across the country.

Healthcare associations, individual experts and the Biden administration have all stood firm on the importance of vaccination mandates, with the novel omicron variant only adding to the president’s urgency to get shots in arms.  

However, the administration’s broader requirements have so far faced stiff competition from courts as well as right-leaning lawmakers and governors alike.

A Texas judge Wednesday separately granted a preliminary injunction to the state of Texas against the vaccine mandate, The Hill reported.

The Supreme Court this week also blocked a challenge to New York’s requirement that healthcare workers be vaccinated against COVID-19 even when they cite religious objections.

30% of hospital healthcare workers remained unvaccinated as of September

Dive Brief:

  • Some 30% of U.S. healthcare workers employed at hospitals remained unvaccinated as of Sept. 15, according to an analysis of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data published Thursday by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology.
  • The findings include data from 3.3 million healthcare workers at more than 2,000 hospitals, collected between Jan. 20 and Sept. 15.
  • Healthcare personnel working in children’s hospitals had the highest vaccination rates, along with those working in metropolitan counties.

Dive Insight:

The vaccination rate for healthcare workers is roughly in line with that of the general population, though the risk of exposure and transmission can be higher in settings where infected COVID-19 patients are treated, Hannah Reses, CDC epidemiologist and lead author of the analysis, said.

When the shots were initially rolled out, vaccination rates climbed among healthcare workers, rising from 36% to 60% between January and April of 2021, the analysis found. But a major slowdown occurred shortly after.

From April to August, vaccination rates rose just 5%. They then rose 5% again in just one month — from August to September — likely due to the delta variant and more systems implementing their own mandates, the report said.

Researchers also found discrepancies in vaccination rates based on the type of hospitals and their geographic locations.

By September, workers at children’s hospitals had the highest vaccination rates (77%), followed by those at short-term acute care hospitals (70%), long-term care facilities (68.8%), and critical access hospitals (64%).

Among healthcare workers at facilities in metropolitan areas, about 71% were vaccinated by September, compared to 65% of workers at rural facilities.

The findings come as health systems work to comply with new vaccination mandates from the Biden administration.

Healthcare facilities must follow the CMS rule, which stipulates employees must be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4 or risk losing Medicare and Medicaid funding. Unlike the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s rule that applies to businesses with 100 employees or more but excludes healthcare providers, the CMS rule does not allow for a testing exception.

Both agencies’ rules were met with pushback. The attorneys general of 10 mostly rural states — Missouri, Nebraska, Arkansas, Kansas, Iowa, Wyoming, Alaska, South Dakota, North Dakota and New Hampshire — filed a lawsuit on Oct. 10 against CMS for its rule and said the mandates would exacerbate existing staffing shortages.

“Requiring healthcare workers to get a vaccination or face termination is unconstitutional and unlawful, and could exacerbate healthcare staffing shortages to the point of collapse, especially in Missouri’s rural areas,” the state’s attorney general, Eric Schmitt, said in a statement.

But some regional systems that implemented their own mandates have seen positive results.

After UNC Health and Novant Health in North Carolina required the shots, staff vaccination rates rose to 97% and 99%, respectively, according to a White House report.

Among Novant Health’s 35,000 employees, about 375 were suspended for not complying, and about 200 of those suspended employees did end up getting vaccinated so they could return to work, according to the report.

And some major hospital chains across the country are joining suit with the looming deadline, including HCA with its 183 hospitals and more than 275,000 employees.

The chain is requiring employees be fully vaccinated by the CMS deadline on Jan. 4, a spokesperson said in an email statement.

At the same time, this year’s flu season is difficult to predict, though, “the number of influenza virus detection reported by public health labs has increased in recent weeks,” Reses said.

“The CDC is preparing for flu and COVID to circulate along with other respiratory viruses, and so flu vaccination therefore will be really important to reduce the risk of flu and potentially serious complications, particularly in combination with COVID-19 circulating,” Reses said.

Austria orders nationwide lockdown for the unvaccinated

https://www.yahoo.com/news/austria-orders-nationwide-lockdown-unvaccinated-120902629.html

FILE - The patient Kurt Switil, left, receives a Pfizer vaccination against the COVID-19 disease by a doctor in the vaccination center ‚Am Schoepfwerk' in Vienna, Austria, April 10, 2021. The Austrian government ordered a nationwide lockdown for unvaccinated people starting midnight Sunday, Nov. 14, 2021, to slow the fast spread of the coronavirus in the country. (AP Photo/Lisa Leutner, File)

The Austrian government has ordered a nationwide lockdown for unvaccinated people starting at midnight Sunday to combat rising coronavirus infections and deaths.

The move prohibits unvaccinated people 12 and older from leaving their homes except for basic activities such as working, grocery shopping, going for a walk — or getting vaccinated.

Authorities are concerned about rising infections and deaths and that soon hospital staff will no longer be able to handle the growing influx of COVID-19 patients.

“It’s our job as the government of Austria to protect the people,” Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg told reporters in Vienna on Sunday. “Therefore we decided that starting Monday … there will be a lockdown for the unvaccinated.”

The lockdown affects about 2 million people in the Alpine country of 8.9 million, the APA news agency reported. It doesn’t apply to children under 12 because they cannot yet officially get vaccinated.

The lockdown will initially last for 10 days and police will go on patrol to check people outside to make sure they are vaccinated, Schallenberg said, adding that additional forces will be assigned to the patrols.

Unvaccinated people can be fined up to 1,450 euros ($1,660) if they violate the lockdown.

Austria has one of the lowest vaccination rates in Western Europe: only around 65% of the total population is fully vaccinated. In recent weeks, Austria has faced a worrying rise in infections. Authorities reported 11,552 new cases on Sunday; a week ago there were 8,554 new daily infections.

Deaths have also been increasing in recent weeks. On Sunday, 17 new deaths were reported. Overall, Austria’s pandemic death toll stands at 11,706, APA reported.

The seven-day infection rate stands at 775.5 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants. In comparison, the rate is at 289 in neighboring Germany, which has already also sounded the alarm over the rising numbers.

Schallenberg pointed out that while the seven-day infection rate for vaccinated people has been falling in recent days, the rate is rising quickly for the unvaccinated.

“The rate for the unvaccinated is at over 1,700, while for the vaccinated it is at 383,” the chancellor said.

Schallenberg also called on people who have been vaccinated to get their booster shot, saying that otherwise “we will never get out of this vicious circle.”

Coronavirus vaccine mandates are working — for now

Coronavirus vaccine mandates imposed by employers seem to be working so far, suggesting that most vaccine holdouts would rather get the shot than lose their job, Axios’ Caitlin Owens writes.

Why it matters: Every vaccine helps in our fight against the coronavirus, although the U.S. still has a long way to go.

Driving the news: States with vaccine mandates for health care workers that have taken effect, like California and New York, have seen a large uptick in vaccinations.

  • These, of course, are blue states and have higher vaccination rates to begin with. But some health systems in red states, like Texas, have seen similar results when their mandates took effect.
  • High-profile mandates outside of the health care sector have also been successful. For instance, United Airlines achieved nearly 100% vaccination among its employees, and Tyson Foods announced that more than 90% of its workers are now vaccinated.
  • The Biden administration announced that it will require all employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their workers are vaccinated or tested weekly, but this hasn’t yet been implemented.

Yes, but: Hospitals and long-term care facilities are already stretched so thin that it won’t take a mass exodus for them to feel the effects of layoffs.

  • In New York, Gov. Kathy Hochul signed an executive order last week to help provide relief to health systems struggling with staff shortages.
  • The Biden administration announced nursing home workers will soon be required to be vaccinated, which could be a much tougher lift. Only about two-thirds of nursing home staff are vaccinated.

What they’re saying: “As we get down to the harder core unvaccinated who are more resistant, what we are seeing is that reality is a more powerful tool to change behavior than information and messaging,” said Drew Altman, president and CEO of KFF.