As leaders in other industries begin dipping their toes in the COVID-19 vaccination mandate waters, Sunrise Senior Living and Enlivant are joining a growing list of senior living providers that have that requirement.
Enlivant President and Chief Operating Officer Dan Guill recently told McKnight’s Senior Living that his company told employees its goal was for all to be vaccinated by June 1.
“There obviously are nuances to work through, but we are going to work with everybody who can and should be vaccinated,” he said. “We realize it’s a deeply personal experience, but we believe that vaccination is probably the best thing that we can do to ensure safety, especially after seeing what happened in the last year.”
Approximately 80% of staff members and residents were vaccinated as of March 3, Guill said.
The uptick of senior living employers requiring vaccinations comes as other settings begin to roll out mandatory policies. On Thursday, Rutgers University became what is believed to be the first college campus to require students to be vaccinated before returning for fall classes.
“I think quite a few private companies are likely to require a COVID-19 vaccination, particularly those that involve some degree of contact between employees and the public,” University of Pennsylvania law professor Eric A. Feldman said. “Healthcare institutions, long-term care facilities, schools, prisons, perhaps restaurants, stadiums, bars, and other custodial settings may also mandate vaccines. There, of course, will be exemptions, though I suspect they will be fairly narrow.”
Feldman predicted that vaccine mandates will become more common once COVID-19 vaccines receive full approval, versus their current emergency-use authorization. Georgetown University public health law professor Lawrence Gostin agreed, predicting the designation could change as early as next month.
It remains unclear whether skilled nursing providers will flock toward mandates.
LeadingAge in mid-March conducted an informal snapshot poll of members on a COVID-19 update call. In it, 38% of participants said their organization won’t ever require a vaccine for employees, whereas 48% still were undecided. Another 3% already had mandated a vaccine, whereas 3% said they would do so after emergency use is lifted.
Senior living operators including ALG Senior, Atria Senior Living, Civitas Senior Living, Juniper Communities and Silverado have been out front on the issue, adding requirements as a condition of employment.
Sunrise Chief Operating Officer Jenifer Salamino and Chief Clinical Officer Sue Coppola said that the McLean, VA-based company will require that all employees be vaccinated against COVID-19 no later than July 31.
“Simply put, increasing vaccination rates is our best path forward to bring back more normalcy into our residents’ day-to-day lives,” they wrote in a blog post.