COvID vaccine vial
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An informal poll conducted late last month by one LeadingAge state partner found that only a very small percent of long-term care operators plan to require a COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of employment, the long-term care association reported.

More than half of respondents were “not sure” to what degree to require the vaccine of staff, and none of the three stakeholder groups polled — residents, staff or leadership — reported high levels of “eagerness” to get the vaccine, with residents and leadership evenly split between being “uneasy with” or “mostly comfortable” with vaccination, and the majority of staff reportedly “uneasy with” getting the shot.

These straw poll conclusions track closely with the results of a recent McKnight’s Long-Term Care News survey of skilled nursing providers, in which only 14% of respondents said they will mandate that staff members get the vaccine

Instead of requiring it, many LeadingAge members said they are working to find ways to incentivize, educate and motivate staff members to get the vaccine. Many of these approaches include offering staff additional compensation in the form of cash bonuses, extra paid time off, promotional raffles for participants and group incentives for reaching a certain overall participation percentage. One member reported that it plans to give staff members a one-time $30 bonus for taking the vaccine, whereas another has planned a raffle with a grand prize of $2,500 to the winning employee who took the vaccine. One county in Pennsylvania is using federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act monies to fund direct $750 cash payments to the employees of its county-owned nursing home who receive the vaccine, LeadingAge reported. 

Transforming the vaccination process into a milestone celebration is another approach that some members have taken. Senior leaders and executive directors have been making the effort to have their immunizations done in a very public way, whereas others have planned COVID-19-safe group parties, refreshments and giveaways. 

“The fact that key public figures, like the former and future U.S. presidents, are taking the vaccine publicly is being used to assure residents and staff of the vaccine’s safety,” LeadingAge reported. “Using her leadership example and cache with staff, one member said that she plans to tell her employees that, while the vaccine is not required, like her, she expects them to take the vaccine to protect the residents in their care.”