Call for Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccination for Long-Term Care Workers

Growing industry trend to mandate COVID-19 vaccination for health care workers and virus variants start to take hold in the U.S. and worldwide.

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Call for Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccination for Long-Term Care Workers
4 Min Read July 27th, 2021 Updated:July 29th, 2021

A group representing 5,000 nonprofit aging services providers has joined numerous other organizations calling for mandatory vaccination requirements for long-term care and other healthcare workers.

LeadingAge, in a joint statement signed by 57 other groups, including the American Medical Association, the American College of Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Public Health Association, said they stand by the experts and institutions who support universal COVID-19 vaccination for health care workers. 

COVID-19 Vaccines are Effective

"Existing COVID-19 vaccine mandates have proven effective. Simultaneously, we recognize the historical mistrust of health care institutions, including among many in our own health care workforce. We must continue to address workers' concerns, engage with marginalized populations, and work with trusted messengers to improve vaccine acceptance," according to the statement.

The groups understand that some workers in health care are unable to receive the vaccination because of identified medical reasons. However, they say that represents a small minority of workers.

"Employers should consider any applicable state laws on a case-by-case basis," the statement said. 

Government Mandate or Company Mandate?

"Everyone should get vaccinated, and every company and organization should continue to educate, motivate and support employees and clients to do so. But this kind of collective action should be a government decision, not a company-by-company battle," said Ari Medoff, Chief Executive Officer of Arosa, who provides long-term care services in eight states.

Medoff says he hopes health care workers become more attuned to the importance and benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine; the primary concern should be to stop the spread of the virus through communities.  

"I hope that the FDA approves the covid vaccine soon and states begin to mandate shots, just like they do for vaccines for measles, polio, and other deadly viruses. We all, including care professionals, clients, and client's family members, must care enough to do our part to protect ourselves, our neighbors, and our communities," Medoff added.  

Some Health Care Workers Still Not Vaccinated

There are still some workers in long-term care and other areas of health care who have chosen not be receive the vaccine. With growing cases involving the highly contagious Delta variant, the groups say that hospitalizations and deaths are once again rising throughout the United States.

"Vaccination is the primary way to put the pandemic behind us and avoid the return of stringent public health measures," the statement says.

Vaccinations Protect the Public

In a separate statement, LeadingAge said that vaccination is the most effective tool to protect the public from COVID-19.

"As the most effective tool to protect from the virus, COVID-19 vaccination should be a condition of employment for all healthcare workers, including employees, contract staff, and others, with appropriate exemptions for those with medical reasons or as specified by federal or state law," the statement said.

Government Groups Stepping In

The Department of Veterans Affairs announced they would require many of their frontline health workers to be vaccinated. The VA would be the first federal government agency requiring vaccination.  

President Biden has ordered all federal employees to attest to their vaccination status. Federal employees who are not vaccinated and refuse to get the COVID-19 vaccination will be required to wear a mask, socially distance from other employees and visitors, get tested up to twice a week for COVID-19 and be subject to official travel restrictions.

The President has also urged state and local governments and private employers to follow a similar vaccination requirement for their workplace, adding that the Justice Department has "made it clear" that it is legal to do so.

In California, Governor Gavin Newsom said the state would mandate all 246,000 state employees and the state's health care workers to be vaccinated or comply with mask rules and testing protocols.

The groups signing the joint statement include:

Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy
American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
American Academy of Family Physicians
American Academy of Nursing
American Academy of Ophthalmology
American Academy of PAs
American Academy of Pediatrics
American Association of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology
American Association of Clinical Endocrinology
American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy
American Association of Neuroscience Nurses
American College of Clinical Pharmacy
American College of Physicians
American College of Preventive Medicine
American College of Surgeons
American Epilepsy Society
American Medical Association
American Nursing Association
American Pharmacists Association
American Psychiatric Association
American Public Health Association
American Society for Clinical Pathology
American Society for Radiation Oncology
American Society of Health-System Pharmacists
American Society of Hematology
American Society of Nephrology
American Thoracic Society
Association for Clinical Oncology
Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology
Association of Academic Health Centers
Association of American Medical Colleges
Association of Rehabilitation Nurses
Council of Medical Specialty Societies
HIV Medicine Association
Infectious Diseases Society of America
National Association of Indian Nurses of America
National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners
National Council of State Boards of Nursing
National Hispanic Medical Association
National League for Nursing
National Medical Association
National Pharmaceutical Association
Nurses Who Vaccinate
Organization for Associate Degree Nursing
Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society
Philippine Nurses Association of America, Inc.
Society of Gynecologic Oncology
Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America
Society of Hospital Medicine
Society of Interventional Radiology
Texas Nurses Association
The John A. Hartford Foundation
Transcultural Nursing Society
Virgin Islands State Nurses Association
Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nurses Society

Demand for Long-Term Health Care Increases - COVID Complicates

Demand for long-term care services has been increasing for years. The COVID-19 virus crisis has placed a bigger spotlight on the need for quality care services and the overall risks of aging and changing health.

In an OpEd published in the Detroit Free Press, Dr. Ezekiel J. Emanuel, co-director of the Healthcare Transformation Institute at the University of Pennsylvania and author of "Which Country has the World's Best Health Care?" Matthew Guido and Amaya Diana, research coordinators in Penn's Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy, write that the private sector must take the lead in COVID-19 vaccination. 

They write that the federal government is not in a position to mandate, must the private section can and should. 

"The private sector needs to fill the void. Private employers are in a better position to institute mandates and have precedent to do so. Most health care facilities, many universities, and some employers already require vaccines for the flu; measles, mumps, and rubella; HPV and/or meningococcal disease. As workers transition back to in-person activity this summer and fall, employers have a responsibility to keep them all safe," they wrote. 

They explained that mandates are working and cite Houston Methodist Hospital's vaccine mandate. The requirement resulted in a staff vaccination rate of more than 99%. IntegraCare, which operates 13 senior living homes across several states, announced they reached a 100% vaccination rate among their staff. 

In Chicago, Rush University Medical Center now requires COVID-19 vaccines for their staff. Several other Chicago area hospitals are also requiring vaccination.

Those in long-term care facilities or who are receiving in-home care are already at higher risk due to aging and a variety of health issues. Families expect health care workers to take precautions to prevent infection. Their families also want to protect themselves when these health care works come home.

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Editor's Note

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