The American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living “strongly urges” vaccination against COVID-19 for all healthcare personnel and supports all providers that adopt mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policies for such workers, the organizations said Thursday morning.
The announcement comes days after another large industry association, LeadingAge, individually and with 56 other healthcare-related organizations called for mandatary vaccination.
“COVID-19 vaccines protect healthcare personnel when working both in healthcare facilities and in the community. They provide strong protection against workers unintentionally carrying the disease to work and spreading it to patients and peers,” AHCA/NCAL said in a statement.
AHCA/NCAL, which together represent more than 14,000 assisted living communities and nursing homes, primarily for-profit organizations, noted that state and local regulations and circumstances will shape whether and how mandatory vaccination policies are implemented. They added a renewed call for state and federal governments to enact solutions to help address workforce challenges in long-term care related to the pandemic.
“Each state and facility must make the best decision for their specific circumstances,” the statement said. “The pandemic has already exacerbated workforce challenges that long term care providers [have] faced for years. Vaccine mandates may further challenge providers trying to recruit and retain a qualified workforce.”
AHCA/NCAL said it encourages assisted living and skilled nursing providers that implement mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policies to:
- Provide exemptions for medical reasons and accommodations consistent with Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines (such as a sincerely held religious belief, practice or observance);
- Follow relevant Centers for Disease Control & Prevention infection control guidelines, Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirements, and other federal and state regulations regarding the use of personal protective equipment and other infection control practices for unvaccinated staff members receiving an exemption or accommodation. For example, unvaccinated personnel may be required to wear a mask at all times, even if CDC guidelines and OSHA requirements were to relax mask requirements for vaccinated personnel;
- Ensure that the policy is implemented in a manner consistent with local and state laws;
- Follow requirements and guidelines from the Food and Drug Administration and CDC about which individuals are eligible and should be prioritized for vaccination;
- Monitor national safety and efficacy data for all FDA-authorized or approved vaccines in use;
- Continue providing education about the efficacy and safety of COVID-19 vaccines to encourage staff members to obtain the vaccine voluntarily in a culturally sensitive and appropriate manner; and
- Offer scheduling flexibility and/or time off to ensure that employees have time to obtain the vaccine and recover from its possible side effects.
AHCA/NCAL’s announcement follows announcements Monday by LeadingAge — both individually as an association and together with 56 other healthcare-related organizations — calling for mandatory vaccination among long-term care workers and other healthcare workers. LeadingAge represents more than 5,000 nonprofit aging services providers. At the time, AHCA/NCAL told McKnight’s Senior Living that their organizations were continuing to “focus on educational efforts to increase vaccine confidence.”
During a membership call Monday, LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan said that in the hours following her organization’s announcement in support of mandatory COVID-19 vaccination, she heard from dozens of members thanking the association for “taking a stand.” The announcement, she added, buoyed some providers to draft their own policies for employees.
Among other groups that have made similar calls for mandatory COVID-19 vaccination for healthcare workers are AMDA–The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine and the American Hospital Association.
Several senior living companies already have COVID-19 vaccine mandates in place for employees. Among them are 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.