Mandate Vaccine Shots?
Data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services show an average of 79% of residents in nursing homes have gotten their vaccine shots. However, just 56% of caregivers in long-term care facilities have been vaccinated. Only 1 in 5 facilities achieved an industry target of getting 75 percent of their health care staff fully vaccinated. As you may know, the caregiver’s job duties include bathing, dressing and feeding residents, the kind of close contact that makes it easier to catch COVID.
Just 7.8% of South Carolina nursing homes meet the industry benchmark of 75% of staff fully vaccinated, putting South Carolina in the bottom quartile for the metric.
There’s no good reason for any worker who is medically able to be vaccinated to refuse the shot. The facility must require caregivers to be safe for their residents. A mandate can help long-term care providers boost vaccine uptake among staff.
Multiple national organizations have called on all healthcare facilities, including nursing homes and hospitals, to mandate the COVID-19 vaccines for all employees, volunteers and contract workers. Medical exemptions could exclude individuals medically contraindicated to all COVID-19 vaccines available in the U.S. Evidence proves the vaccines are safe and highly effective.
“Unfortunately, many healthcare workers have still not taken the COVID-19 vaccination, which puts them and their patients at significant risk,” Christoper Laxton, AMDA executive director, said. “After other measures to improve vaccine uptake have not been effective, requiring vaccinations for all employees is the best way to ensure that everyone eligible will receive them in a timely manner.”
There’s simply no excuse for anyone who is medically able to refuse the shot, especially if their job involves working with vulnerable adults. AARP’s analysis found that more nursing homes reported an urgent need for PPE in the last month, increasing from 3.6% to 5% of facilities, and 24% of facilities reported a staffing shortage—a problem that existed prior to the pandemic.
“Given low pay and challenging working conditions, some staff may choose to leave the facility rather than get vaccinated. Nursing homes already are struggling with a tight labor market and staff shortages. Thus, they can ill afford to lose additional staff,” staffing expert Dave Grabowski warned.
Hiring has been more difficult by the pandemic. Turnover is always high. Maybe facilities should pay a living wage.
AARP’s five-point plan:
1. Prioritize regular testing and adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) for residents and staff—as well as for inspectors and any visitors.
2. Improve transparency focused on daily, public reporting of cases and deaths in facilities; communication with families about discharges and transfers; and accountability for state and federal funding that goes to facilities.
3. Ensure access to in-person visitation following federal and state guidelines for safety and require continued access to virtual visitation for all residents.
4. Ensure quality care for residents through adequate staffing, oversight, and access to in-person formal advocates, called long-term care Ombudsmen.
5. Reject immunity and hold long-term care facilities accountable when they fail to provide adequate care to residents.