More than 50 major health care organizations have signed a letter urging health care and long-term care employers to require their employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as cases begin to rise again across the U.S.

“We call for all health care and long-term care employers to require their employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19,” the organizations said in the letter published Monday. The American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Physicians are among the groups that signed on to the letter.

The groups cited the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus, which has been spreading among unvaccinated people, for the recent surge in new COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths across the U.S.

“Vaccination is the primary way to put the pandemic behind us and avoid the return of stringent public health measures,” the letter states. “Unfortunately, many health care and long-term care personnel remain unvaccinated.”

About 25% of hospital workers who work directly with patients had not received even one COVID-19 vaccine shot as of May, according to a WebMD and Medscape Medical News data analysis of 2,500 hospitals across the country.

Health care workers and others gathered at several hospitals throughout Michigan on Saturday to protest the recent announcemeSOPA Images via Getty Images Health care workers and others gathered at several hospitals throughout Michigan on Saturday to protest the recent announcement by Trinity Health and Henry Ford Health systems that nurses and other health workers under their employment will be required to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, the vice provost for global initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania who organized the group statement, said health care workers had an “ethical duty to put patients’ health and well-being first.”

“Employer vaccine mandates are effective and lifesaving, and they are especially appropriate in health care and long-term care settings,” he said in a separate statement Monday. “No patient should have to worry that they could become infected by one of their care providers, and no provider should put their patient at risk.”

Protesters demonstrate against vaccine mandates for hospital workers outside Michigan's St. Joseph Mercy Oakland Hospital. SOPA Images via Getty Images Protesters demonstrate against vaccine mandates for hospital workers outside Michigan’s St. Joseph Mercy Oakland Hospital.

Coronavirus cases have been rising across the U.S. in recent weeks while vaccination rates plateau.

Vaccines reduce the risk of people spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. Getting fully vaccinated may not guarantee that someone won’t contract the virus, but it will reduce the chance of severe illness or death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Hospital workers, including at institutions in New Jersey and Texas, have been fired for refusing to comply with their employer’s coronavirus vaccine mandate.

More than 100 workers filed a lawsuit in May against Houston Methodist Hospital in Texas over its vaccine requirement. A federal judge tossed out the suit in June, and employees who refused to comply with the vaccine mandate were fired.

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