COVID-19 booster vaccines

A California-based senior living operator has announced a COVID-19 booster shot mandate for its employees, when one becomes available, “to ensure the continued protection of our residents and one another.”

The mandate was announced Aug. 27, about two weeks before President Biden announced that employers of 100 or more workers will be required to ensure that their workforces are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or produce a negative test at least weekly before coming to work.

The announcement, made in a letter to employees and an online post by Integral Senior Living and Solstice Senior Living President and CEO Collette Gray, also comes after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized a booster dose of the coronavirus vaccine for people with weakened immune systems and President Biden announced a desired rollout of booster shots the week of Sept. 20 for most Americans, although the timing may change. 

ISL’s/Solstice’s booster shot mandate applies only to employees who received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, for now, although the Moderna vaccine probably will not be ready by Sept. 20, the Associated Press reported. If a recommendation is made for a Johnson & Johnson booster shot, the company said, it will share that information with staff. 

Employees will need to show proof of their booster shot within two weeks of their eligibility date — as of now, that would be eight months after they received the second dose of either vaccine.

In a message to employees, Gray emphasized that the booster “is not a new vaccine” and that the third dose is expected to help extend the duration of effectiveness and protection against COVID-19.

“Most importantly, the vaccine is safe and effective at reducing the risk of serious illness, even against the delta variant,” she wrote. “It is our responsibility as a company to safeguard the health and well-being of our associates and residents, as well as the community at large, from risks associated with COVID-19.”

The company indicated that it is working to coordinate booster shots for residents.

Another company, Eventide Senior Living, In its employee COVID-19 vaccine mandate said that under its policy, all employees are required to get the COVID-19 vaccine “and any boosters” as advised by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The AP reported that the FDA’s scientific advisers will publicly debate Sept. 17 whether to approve a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine for a larger group of people. That’s three days before the Biden administration’s target to begin booster shots. If the FDA approves a booster dose, then CDC advisers will recommend who should get one, although the agency already is considering prioritizing long-term care residents and frontline healthcare workers, according to the news outlet.

LeadingAge is tracking COVID-19 vaccine mandate trends in each state. As of Aug. 25, 24 states had vaccine mandates, and nine states had vaccine mandate bans. 

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, Brightview Senior Living, Brookdale Senior Living, CareOne, Civitas Senior Living, Enlivant, Episcopal Homes, Episcopal Retirement Services, ER Senior Management, Eventide Senior Living, Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society, Five Star Senior Living, Genesis HealthCare, Harbor Retirement Associates, Homestead Assisted Living, Immanuel Senior Living, IntegraCare, Integral Senior Living, JEA Senior Living (now known as Sinceri Senior Living), Jewish Home Family, Juniper Communities, LCS, Masonicare, Meridian Senior Living, Pacific Retirement Services, Pegasus Senior Living, Phoebe Ministries, Presbyterian Communities of South Carolina, Presbyterian Senior Living, PruittHealth, Retirement Center Management, Silverado, Sun Health, Sunrise Senior Living, Transforming Age, Trilogy Health Services, Trinity Health, United Methodist Communities, Vi Living, Wesley Enhanced Living and Western Home Communities.

Industry groups — including AMDA–The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine, the American College of Health Care Administrators, the American Health Care Association / National Center for Senior Living, the American Seniors Housing Association, Argentum and LeadingAge — either have encouraged vaccination or announced their support for vaccine mandates for all long-term care and healthcare employers.