Assisted living organizations and other long-term care employers should mandate flu vaccination for staff members and make vaccination a condition of employment for workers, according to experts convened by the Gerontological Society of America’s National Adult Vaccination Program.

“Immunization in long-term care is critical, as we are dealing with individuals at great risk for getting the flu, pneumonia, shingles and associated complications,” said GSA Past President Barbara Resnick, Ph.D., RN, CRNP, FGSA, who is a member of the NAVP Workgroup. Long-term care residents are living close to one another and can easily pass along infections once they get them, she added.

In addition to benefits for residents, vaccinating staff members also can benefit employers by improving attendance, the experts said.

The recommendations stem from a May summit that gathered Resnick and other representatives of the government, immunization advocacy organizations, professional societies representing those who work in long-term care and Sanofi Pasteur. Among participants were LeadingAge Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Janine Finck-Boyle, MBA, and AMDA—The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine Executive Director Christopher Laxton, CAE.

The group’s findings were released Thursday in a white paper, “Charting a Path to Increase Immunization Rates in the Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Settings.”

“The expectation for providers to be fully vaccinated should be covered by written policies, and renewable consent should be obtained during hiring and orientation processes,” according to the report.

“Making vaccines a regular and integrated part of the fabric of assisted living and other long-term care facilities helps safeguard the health of everyone in the community,” the authors wrote. “Managers and facility leaders — including administrators — should be the first in line to get their influenza vaccination to set an example for other staff members in the facility.”

Vaccinating residents

The group also recommended mandating flu vaccination for long-term care residents but acknowledged that implementing such a requirement may be more difficult in assisted living communities, which typically have fewer healthcare personnel than in skilled nursing facilities and where residents may be directly responsible for their own healthcare.

“Flu vaccine drives and wellness days can provide the opportunity for residents to act on their intent to get vaccinated,” the report authors said.

Communities can “assess vaccination status and needs during the admissions process, and begin reinforcing the idea that residents have a responsibility to others in the community to stay vaccinated,” the report authors said. “Flu vaccine drives and wellness days — perhaps including local celebrities or well-known people who can advocate for vaccines — provide the opportunity for assisted living community residents to act on their intent to get vaccinated.

The experts recommended making consent part of the standard admission process, using a standard form to record all vaccine-related information for each resident, and implementing standing orders where possible.

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