March 21, 2022, Update: The following information was based on sections 1.01, 2.02, and 2.05 of the Professional and Ethical Compliance Code for Behavior Analysts and has since been updated to reflect the Ethics Code for Behavior Analysts.
The BACB commends all of its certificants who have endeavored to place the safety and needs of clients and staff at the forefront of their action plans to address the COVID-19 pandemic. The following information is being provided to our certificants as they make critical decisions about accessing COVID-19 vaccines.
The BACB offers the following considerations as certificants begin to move forward in the wake of newly available vaccines for COVID-19. This information does not constitute legal or medical advice, but it is consistent with the following standard from the Ethics Code for Behavior Analysts:
- 3.01 Responsibility to Clients: “Behavior analysts act in the best interest of clients, taking appropriate steps to support clients’ rights, maximize benefits, and do no harm. They are also knowledgeable about and comply with applicable laws and regulations related to mandated reporting requirements.”
Certificants should also consider the recent guidance provided by the American Medical Association (AMA) Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs for physicians from the November 2020 AMA Special Meeting. Specifically, the AMA (n.d.) states that:
- “When … there is an available, safe, and effective vaccine, physicians have a responsibility to accept immunization absent a recognized medical contraindication or when a specific vaccine would pose a significant risk to the physician’s patients.”
- “Physicians who are not or cannot be immunized have a responsibility to voluntarily take appropriate action to protect patients, fellow health care workers and others … including refraining from direct patient contact when appropriate.”
- “Physician practices and health care institutions have a further responsibility to limit patient and staff exposure to individuals who are not immunized, which may include requiring unimmunized individuals to refrain from direct patient contact.”
The BACB urges certificants to consider the AMA’s guidance when making personal decisions and creating organization-level policies about accessing COVID-19 vaccines. Should the BACB receive a Notice of Alleged Violation related to this topic, the review committee would likely consider the following questions in determining whether a violation occurred:
- Was there a vaccine available to reduce the negative impacts of the pandemic?
- If the certificant could not be safely immunized or refused the vaccine for personal reasons, did they take and follow appropriate actions to protect clients, stakeholders, co-workers, supervisees, trainees, and others from potential exposure?
- If the certificant was responsible for organization-level practices, did they take appropriate measures to protect clients, stakeholders, co-workers, supervisees, trainees, and others from exposure to nonimmunized individuals?
- American Medical Association. (n.d.). Routine universal immunization of physicians: Code of medical ethics opinion 8.7. https://www.ama-assn.org/delivering-care/ethics/routine-universal-immunization-physicians/