COVID-19 Pandemic

January 2021

Women’s Health

Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc., recognizes the unprecedented impact of the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 on the United States, Israel and the world.  Hadassah honors the memory of lives lost and celebrates health workers and other front-line personnel who tirelessly provide care and essential services to their communities. Hadassah acknowledges the profound social, economic and psychological impact of the pandemic — especially on women.

In Israel, the Hadassah Medical Organization (HMO) rose to the challenge as a leader in testing, patient care and research. When called upon to activate its Clinical Virology Laboratory, HMO enabled Israel’s Ministry of Health to dramatically increase testing capacity and efficiency. HMO was by far the leading hospital in Israel caring for COVID-19 patients. At the peak of the second wave, HMO treated more than 150 patients a day — around half of whom required critical care services — while maintaining activity in the general hospital at a more than 95 percent occupancy rate. HMO led the way in instituting universal testing of hospital staff to ensure the safety of patients and employees and developed a Manual of Protocols for COVID-19 that has been shared around the world. With over 25 clinical trials and a new process for swifter diagnosis, HMO has been at the forefront of testing and treatment innovation and the search for a cure. In November 2020, Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem launched the first human trials of an Israeli-made COVID-19 vaccine.  

Like many conditions, COVID-19 impacts men and women differently. Women are less likely to experience severe symptoms or fatalities, despite higher exposure rates. However, women appear to be more likely to experience lingering symptoms, or Long COVID, characterized by post-viral fatigue following an infection. Advancing basic and translational research on sex differences — especially the study of female immune and inflammatory responses — could lead to clinical applications and treatments that benefit everyone. Understanding how social determinants of health put men, as well as racial and ethnic minority groups, at greater risk for COVID-19 is also essential in the effort to eliminate health disparities and promote health equity.

Women have been bearing the disproportionate brunt of COVID-19’s social effects, including lost jobs, domestic violence, reduced access to reproductive care, and food, housing and income insecurity. Added caregiving responsibilities for children and/or sick or elderly relatives — duties more often assumed by women — have elevated stress levels and decreased attention to self-care. Beyond the emotional impact, social isolation can dramatically increase one’s risk for disease.  The effects of anxiety and trauma on women’s psychological and physical health — and the health of their families — will last for years to come. The mental health crisis created by COVID-19 presents an immense challenge for the American health care system, reinforcing the need to fight stigmas and ensure mental health parity in coverage and service availability.  

Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc., calls for:  

  • Investments in the American health care workforce, especially nursing, as Hadassah deeply understands the broad and integral role nurses play in ensuring quality patient care
  • Continued efforts to ensure an adequate and reliable supply of personal protective equipment (PPE), testing supplies and medical resources, including ventilators and pharmaceuticals
  • Policymakers and health agencies to prioritize the study of sex differences; improve collection and analysis of public health data, including sex/gender, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status and other demographic factors; expand awareness and promote the importance of clinical trials; and pursue other policies to mitigate health disparities
  • Public education around the importance of personal safety precautions, community mitigation efforts and vaccination to stem the pandemic
  • A rapid but thorough process to evaluate, produce and distribute a COVID-19 vaccine(s), with attention to widespread coordination, equitable allocation and ongoing surveillance of the vaccine’s efficacy and safety for all people
  • Bipartisan efforts to expand access to quality, affordable health care in the   United States — especially in light of the fact that COVID-19 could be deemed a pre-existing condition due to persistent or potential long-term effects

Hadassah also applauds its members, Associates and supporters who, in the face of social distancing, continue to find ways to help their communities by collecting PPE, making masks, delivering food, and reaching out to vulnerable members and neighbors — exemplifying Hadassah’s power of connection and healing the world.

Hadassah's Policy Statements represent the organization's official stance on a wide variety of issues facing our nation, Israel and other international matters of concern. Policy Statements are debated and voted on at national meetings by Hadassah’s national board and delegates from our membership. Once approved, statements become official policies of the organization and serve to define Hadassah's overall agenda and advocacy priorities. Hadassah, as a charitable organization classified under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, is prohibited from any direct or indirect support of, or opposition to, candidates for public office.