male patient about to get COVID vaccine from healthcare worker

An assisted living association in Massachusetts is calling on the state to expand a COVID-19 vaccine mandate to its members’ workers in senior living. The organization also voiced its support for providers who institute vaccine mandates for their staff and vendors.

The Massachusetts Assisted Living Association on Friday released a statement encouraging all assisted living communities to put vaccine mandates in place. Citing efforts to promote safety for residents and staff, the organization also asked state leadership to expand the statewide vaccine mandate —  currently in place for skilled nursing facilities —  to include assisted living. 

“Massachusetts assisted living has strong rates of vaccination in place, but we must do all we can to keep residents as safe as possible for the families we serve,” Mass–ALA President and CEO Brian Doherty said. “The Baker administration made the right call by mandating vaccination of staff in skilled nursing facilities, and we want to build on this effort as partners in protecting older adults across the care continuum.”

Last week, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) announced a vaccine mandate for skilled nursing facility staff and other healthcare providers serving vulnerable populations. Long-term care employees have until Sept. 1 to receive their first vaccine dose, and they must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 10. But the mandate does not apply to the state’s 270 certified assisted living residences, which employ approximately 22,000 staff members who serve 16,000 residents.

Doherty said that some assisted living providers in the state already have vaccine mandates in place, including Atria Senior Living, Benchmark Senior Living, Five Star Senior Living, Hebrew Senior Life, Legacy Lifecare, Salmon Health and Retirement and Sunrise Senior Living. But, he said, more needs to be done. 

“We are supporting all of our members putting vaccine mandates in place to further reinforce the safe and healthy environment that high rates of vaccination and robust infection control policies have helped us achieve,” Doherty said.

More state mandates

On Thursday, Delaware joined a growing list of states requiring employees of assisted living and other long-term care and healthcare facilities to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or undergo regular testing. The public health order goes into effect Sept. 30. 

Meagan Glaser, vice president of LeadingAge New Jersey & Delaware, said that education efforts and COVID-19 vaccine clinics have led to a majority of residents being vaccinated. She added that staff vaccinations continue to increase, but with the rise in variants, the association is urging all staff in long-term care to get vaccinated.

“Our state association joins our national affiliate, LeadingAge, in their support for requiring vaccines for all healthcare workers, with appropriate exemptions for those with medical reasons or as specified by federal or state law,” Glaser told McKnight’s Senior Living.

Delaware joins California, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Puerto Rico and Washington state in issuing COVID-19 requirements for assisted living workers.