Should clinics waive background check requirements for volunteers working at mass COVID-19 vaccination clinics? Vaccine rollouts are accelerating—President Biden recently announced that the United States should have enough vaccines for every American adult by the end of May. As a result, there is an increasing need for clinics and other large-scale vaccination centers to vaccinate patients efficiently.
That effort will require volunteers. The process could slow down due to background screening requirements, which is a concern given how many U.S. citizens still need the COVID vaccine and the fact that vaccine doses can expire if they are not administered quickly.
This time crunch has created a dilemma for healthcare providers: should they perform their due diligence for every vaccine clinic volunteer to avoid potential risk to patients and other liability risks? Or should they waive background check requirements and speed up the vaccine process to help bring the pandemic to an end?
At least one physicians group prefers the latter option. In February, the Chicago Medical Society asked Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker to waive requirements that demand fingerprint and background checks for any licensed healthcare professionals who wish to volunteer at vaccine clinics or other mass vaccination sites throughout the state.
The physicians society argued that these background check requirements are redundant and not beneficial: the volunteers working at mass vaccine sites in Illinois are already Illinois-licensed healthcare professionals in good standing. To receive a license in Illinois, doctors and nurses must pass healthcare worker background checks.
Although 17,000 Chicago-area doctors signed the letter that the Chicago Medical Society sent to the governor’s office, Governor Pritzker did not consent to their request.
According to Pritzker’s press secretary, the challenge is that the background checks in question are not mandated by the state. Instead, individual local health departments have been setting the background screening requirements for vaccine clinic workers. Pritzker’s office has maintained that the governor cannot waive the requirements because the governor does not have the authority to tell local health departments how to operate.
Speaking to the Chicago Tribune, one county health department director defended the use of healthcare worker background checks for vaccination sites. She noted that, while doctors and nurses do receive background checks at the medical licensing phase, those checks only occur once—“at the time of initial licensure, not annually or at every renewal.” As a result, a vaccine clinic background check could identify new criminal activity that has occurred since licensure or other red flags that earlier background investigations missed.
County requirements could also shift as more vaccines become available and the need for vaccine clinic workers increases rapidly. Several Illinois counties, such as Lake County, have already waived background check requirements for vaccinators who have a valid medical license.
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About Michael Klazema The author
Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based backgroundchecks.com with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments