Healthcare worker vaccinates young woman

The American College of Health Care Administrators said late Tuesday that it is joining several other long-term care and healthcare-related groups in an effort to “strongly urge the vaccination of all eligible staff and residents against the COVID-19 virus.”

“The only way we can get beyond the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects is to get vaccinated,” the group said in a statement, noting that its board, in consultation with the association’s Advocacy and Policy Committee, “urges all practical and effective efforts to increase the number of staff members and residents who are vaccinated against COVID-19.”

ACHCA noted recent statements by the American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living, LeadingAge, AMDA–The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine, the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association, the American Pharmacists Association and “numerous other organizations” that either have called for a COVID-19 vaccine mandate, said they encourage vaccination, or said they support providers who implement one for employees.

Despite the fact that “[t]he COVID-19 vaccines offer an opportunity to escape the dire effects of the pandemic, and they have been demonstrated to be safe and effective,” ACHCA said, many people in assisted living communities, nursing homes and other senior housing settings have chosen not to be vaccinated.

“In many locations, staff vaccination rates have lagged far behind that of our residents, patients, and their family members, despite the numerous efforts to provide education on the safety, side effects, and efficacy of being vaccinated,” the association said.

The ACHCA statement noted that many residents have multiple comorbidities, are near the end of life or have frail health. “They are at the highest risk, even when vaccinated, for complications arising from COVID-19,” the association said. “Charged with caring for and protecting them, we should and must consider achieving the highest rates of vaccination we can among our valued and dedicated staff.”

Referring to the isolation and loneliness many residents felt during lockdown, ACHCA said, “If we don’t get ahead of the delta variant, we may find that a return to the isolation of just a few months ago is right around the corner.”

ACHCA also called for “the Biden Administration at the federal level, as well as each state and territory, to swiftly enact solutions that address the COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy and these workforce challenges.”

ACHCA’s move comes on the heels of similar announcements by two of the long-term care industry’s largest associations, AHCA / NCAL and LeadingAge, last week. AHCA / NCAL said it “strongly urges” vaccination against COVID-19 for all healthcare personnel and supports all providers that adopt mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policies for such workers, whereas LeadingAge, both individually as an association and together with 56 other healthcare-related organizations, called for mandatory vaccination among long-term care workers and other healthcare workers.

AMDA and the AHA previously made similar calls for mandatory COVID-19 vaccination for healthcare workers.

An increasing number of senior living companies also are putting COVID-19 vaccine mandates in place for employees. Skilled nursing giant Genesis Healthcare, also active in senior living, announced a requirement late Monday, and LCS and Episcopal Retirement Services announced mandates late last week.

Other companies previously announcing employee mandates include Aegis Living, ALG Senior, American House Senior Living Communities, The Arbor Co., Ascension Living, Atria Senior Living, Benchmark Senior Living, CareOne, Civitas Senior Living, Enlivant, Five Star Senior Living, the Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society, Harbor Retirement Associates (for new employees), IntegraCare, Integral Senior Living, JEA Senior Living, Jewish Home Family, Juniper Communities, Masonicare, Presbyterian Senior Living, Retirement Center Management, Silverado, Sunrise Senior Living, Trilogy Health Services, Trinity Health, Vi Living and Wesley Enhanced Living.