COvID vaccine vial

Abilene, TX-based ER Senior Management and Cedar Falls, IA-based Western Home Communities announced Monday that they are rolling out mandatory COVID-19 vaccination programs for employees.

The ER Senior Management policy will take effect Sept. 15, the company said, citing the vaccine as its “best option” to protect residents and staff members, as well as support from senior living industry leaders.

Employees in ER’s Texas and Illinois communities will have until Oct. 15 to be fully vaccinated, whereas workers in Indiana, Pennsylvania and Missouri communities must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 31. The mandate covers approximately 1,400 employees at seven properties.

Western Home Communities will require employees and volunteers to be fully vaccinated by Nov. 1, according to an email to employees. Employees must show proof of a first dose by Oct. 1. The provider employs 1,100 workers who work with 1,400 residents in 13 communities offering active lifestyle housing, independent living, assisted living, memory care, extended nursing care or short-term skilled care, according to the media outlet and information on the company’s website. 

ER Senior Management launched its Vaccinate to Eliminate campaign on Aug. 2. All newly hired individuals will need to show proof of vaccination or begin their vaccination series by the deadline.

The company said communities will offer on-site vaccinations, as well as a list of locations offering vaccines. The company said it will pay staff for time taken to receive vaccinations, and wellness initiatives will be offered for those who comply by the deadline, including drawings with cash prizes, Apple earbuds and Bluetooth speakers.

“Our decision to mandate the vaccine for our team members came with multiple factors in mind —  but first and foremost, prioritizing the safety and well-being of our residents and our team members, who are considered family,” ER Senior Management CEO Brian Dowd said in a statement. 

Dowd cited support from senior living industry leaders who encourage vaccination mandates for associates, including American Seniors Housing Association, American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living and Argentum. He also said that guidance from federal and state governments, as well as health professionals nationwide, contributed to the company’s decision to mandate staff vaccinations.

“As a long-term care community, our teams have been in the ‘pandemic trenches’ for the past 18 months,” said Cindy Clark, ER Senior Management vice president of human resources. “The Vaccinate to Eliminate campaign is a critical initiative. Now, more than ever, we need our team members’ support to carry out our shared goal of protecting our residents as much as possible. Getting vaccinated is our best option.”

At Western Homes Communities, the recent surge in COVID-19 cases due to the delta variant —  as well as concerns about future more dangerous variants —  created a new urgency for the mandate, CEO Kris Hansen said in a statement. In a letter to employees, Hansen said that the “only way out of this mess, hopefully once and for all, is for everyone possible to get vaccinated.”

The company offered a financial incentive for vaccination over the past eight months, but only 65% of its employees opted for inoculation. More than 95% of Western Homes’ residents have been vaccinated. 

“We saw how outbreaks stopped earlier this year after vaccinations rolled out. Vaccines work, and they’re safe, based on data from more than 300 million doses given in the U.S. alone,” Hansen said. “We respect the right of people to choose, but at the end of the day, this organization had to make a choice. We are choosing the best course of action to protect the people we serve.”

Additional senior living companies requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for employees include Aegis Living, ALG Senior, American House Senior Living Communities, The Arbor Co., Ascension Living, Atria Senior Living, Benchmark Senior Living, Brookdale Senior Living, CareOne, Civitas Senior Living, Enlivant, Episcopal Retirement Services, Five Star Senior Living, the Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society, Genesis HealthCare, Harbor Retirement Associates (for new employees), IntegraCare, Integral Senior Living, JEA Senior Living, Jewish Home Family, Juniper Communities, LCS, Masonicare, Meridian Senior Living, Pacific Retirement Services, Presbyterian Senior Living, PruittHealth, Retirement Center Management, Silverado, Sunrise Senior Living, Trilogy Health Services, Trinity Health, Vi Living and Wesley Enhanced Living.