David Schless headshot
ASHA President David Schless

The American Seniors Housing Association has joined the growing chorus of industry groups offering support for COVID-19 vaccination mandates for long-term care residents and workers.

“ASHA strongly urges senior living operators to adopt policies that maximize the level of vaccination for all residents and staff at senior living communities and supports all operators, including those who adopt mandatory vaccination policies,” ASHA President David Schless said in a statement Wednesday morning.

The delta variant — attributed to an increased infection rate throughout the country —  recently has begun to appear in senior living communities, Schless said. 

“The science strongly suggests that vaccinated individuals are at far less risk of experiencing the most severe effects of the virus, including the delta variant,” he said. “In addition, greater vaccination rats will reduce the risk of future COVID virus mutations.”

ASHA’s announcement comes just days after Argentum announced its support for employer COVID-19 vaccination mandates for the senior living workforce. LeadingAge and AMDA–The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine in stronger language have called for mandatory COVID-19 vaccination for long-term care workers, and the American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living and the American College of Health Care Administrators have announced that they “strongly” encourage it.

Last week, Brookdale Senior Living joined a growing list of senior living companies that have staff COVID-19 vaccine mandates in place.

Schless said senior living operators have worked diligently since the start of the pandemic to protect vulnerable residents from the effects of the coronavirus. Implementing infection control procedures, donning personal protective equipment, offering on-site vaccination clinics, and implementing social distancing, screening and testing policies helped senior living settings to greatly reduce and virtually eliminate virus outbreaks, he said.

Noting a lower senior living staff vaccination rate, hovering around 60% — compared with a consistently high resident rate in excess of 90% — Schless said those vaccination rates, until recently, have been “very effective in preventing new resident COVID-19 cases.” 

He said that operators — in the face of a difficult labor market — have developed policies to encourage higher levels of staff vaccination, ranging from mandates to enhanced education and financial and other incentives. ASHA’s goal, Schless said, is to “strongly encourage the highest vaccination rates possible in senior living communities.”