COVID vaccine in hands of caregiver

Fifty-seven healthcare organizations, including LeadingAge, which represents more than 5,000 nonprofit aging services providers, issued a joint statement Monday calling for long-term care and other healthcare employers to require COVID-19 vaccinations, even as some healthcare workers across the country begin to respond to such mandates with protests and lawsuits.

“This is the logical fulfillment of the ethical commitment of all healthcare workers to put patients as well as residents of long-term care facilities first and take all steps necessary to ensure their health and well-being,” the 57 groups said in the joint statement

“As the most effective tool to protect from the virus, COVID-19 vaccination should be a condition of employment for all healthcare workers, including employees, contract staff and others, with appropriate exemptions for those with medical reasons or as specified by federal or state law,” LeadingAge said in a separate statement also issued Monday.

The announcement comes days after the American Hospital Association also urged healthcare organizations to require staff to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. AMDA–The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine also recently joined with six other professional organizations earlier this month to release evidence-based recommendations that COVID-19 vaccinations should be mandatory for U.S. long-term care and other healthcare workers.

Even amid an especially challenging time of recruiting and retaining workers, the number of long-term care providers requiring staff members to get vaccinated, have weekly COVID-19 checks or risk employment termination is growing week by week. So far, such policies don’t seem to be sending workers away in droves, at least according to one company CEO.

“The biggest concern right away is staffing. You keep hearing, ‘What if they leave you?’ and all that boogeyman stuff,” Randy Bury, president and CEO of the Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society, one of the largest not-for-profit long-term care providers in the country, recently told McKnight’s Long-Term Care News. “But there’s a flip side to that, and I’ve seen it in my emails this week. There’s vaccinated staff who are very, very happy that we’re mandating this so they don’t have to worry about being the next breakthrough case or taking the virus home to their kids.”

Not all operators are eager to place a requirement on their employees, however — at least not yet.

Merrill Gardens President Tana Gall told McKnight’s Senior Living in May that the company expects to require COVID-19 vaccination of employees at some point, but not until access to the vaccine has been eased and people are more comfortable with it.

An Erickson Senior Living representative previously told McKnight’s Senior Living that it was not planning a mandate.

“We’ve talked about it, but I think there’s a lot of considerations on both sides,” Tom Neubauer, executive vice president of sales, marketing and communications at Erickson, said in May. “But we do not believe that that is something as an employer that we’re going to mandate. I can’t speak for other organizations in our industry with what they do, but we believe that the education that we’ve done, and the success we’ve had, has created our own dynamics and there’s really no need for us to require this.”

Some companies said they are waiting until the COVID-19 vaccine is fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration before making vaccination a requirement for employment. President Joe Biden assured a town hall audience last week in Ohio that he expects full FDA approval to come soon.

“My expectation talking to the group of scientists we put together, over 20 of them plus others in the field, is that sometime, maybe in the beginning of the school year, at the end of August, beginning of September, October, they’ll get a final approval” for the vaccines, Biden said.

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