man rolling up sleeve, nurse preparing shot

The nation’s two leading home care associations aren’t backing a national push for mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for healthcare and long-term care workers.

Neither the Home Care Association of America (HCAOA) nor the National Association for Home Care and Hospice (NAHC) signed a  joint statement released Monday by nearly 60 medical and senior service associations calling for mandatory vaccinations for all healthcare workers — including those working in homes. Among those associations that signed the statement was LeadingAge, which represents home care providers in addition to other long-term care providers. 

Vicki Hoak, HCAOA

“Our members — nearly 4,000 home care agencies across the country — have been doing extensive outreach to their caregivers to encourage them to get the vaccine,” HCAOA Executive Director Vicki Hoak told McKnight’s Home Care Daily in a statement. “We have also seen an increase in the number of clients who are asking that their caregivers be vaccinated, and we honor this request by assuring them that home care providers are taking the necessary steps to protect clients and workers from COVID-19.” 

NAHC would not comment on the joint statement but told McKnight’s Home Care Daily it wasn’t asking members to require mandatory vaccinations of personnel. 

Staffing pressures

The tight labor market is likely one reason home care agencies and the associations that represent them are reluctant to mandate vaccinations for workers. Westchester Family Care President Glenn Lane recently told McKnight’s Home Care Daily the shortage of workers is why he has opted to make vaccinations mandatory for his workers.

“I have a concern that if I mandated it, it would put more pressure on our ability to staff cases and to find workers, but it is something that I do have in the back of my mind. But right now, I’d rather they do it voluntarily,” Lane said.

LeadingAge, the American Medical Association, American Nursing Association and dozens of other associations released the statement as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to spike in all 50 states. The organizations said healthcare workers must get vaccinated because they have an “ethical duty to put patients’ health and well-being first.” 

Time for the stick?

LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan said care providers have been working aggressively to get staff and patients vaccinated but conceded more has to be done.

Katie Smith Sloan
Katie Smith Sloan, LeadingAge

“As COVID-19 variants emerge and proliferate, we can start saving more lives today by ensuring staff are fully vaccinated,” Sloan said in a statement.

During a weekly members call on Monday, Sloan said that her organization is “not naive about the potential staffing issues associated with the mandate.” She said, though, that the “scale tipped toward keeping residents, staff and clients safe.”

Anecdotally, clients that have imposed a mandate have not seen a wave of departures, she added. 

Robin Jump, MD, Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine at Case Western Reserve University, said during the LeadingAge call Monday that the country has not responded adequately to incentives provided for vaccinations.  

“Now we’re at a point, where, having tried carrots, it’s time to do some sticks,” Jump said.

In recent months, a number of home care firms have told McKnight’s Home Care Daily they have had difficulty getting some workers vaccinated, even when agencies provide staff paid time off to get the vaccine and paid sick leave to recover from a possible reaction to it.

Both HCAOA and NAHC said they continue to provide education and information about the vaccine in an effort to get more shots into workers’ arms.