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Consumer Voice Statement on Vaccination of Staff

August 20, 2021

The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care commends the Biden Administration for its recent announcement that all nursing home staff must be fully vaccinated.  Since the pandemic began, over 133,000 residents and staff of nursing homes have died from COVID-19.  Countless others have suffered from isolation and neglect, as facilities closed their doors to visitors out of fear of infection.  Although more than 83% of nursing home residents have been vaccinated, the number is much lower for staff at 62%.  With the Delta variant rampaging across the country, the threat to nursing home residents is again rising.  The number of residents and staff contracting and dying from COVID-19 in recent weeks is increasing significantly; and as new outbreaks occur, a growing number of facilities are again restricting visitation and confining residents to their rooms. The isolation and subsequent effects over the last 18 months have been, for many, as devastating as COVID-19, resulting in significant decline and death of scores of residents.  This requirement will save the lives of not only nursing home residents, but staff as well.

The vaccination mandate should be extended to all health care entities covered by Medicare and/or Medicaid, not just to nursing homes.  Not only do individuals frequently transition between settings for care, but many staff also work in multiple settings.  Mandating vaccines across all settings will also reduce the likelihood of staff leaving to take a job in another setting where a vaccination is not required.  While we share concerns that some staff will leave as a result of the mandates that are being implemented by federal, state, and local governments, and long-term care companies, we hope that more will be encouraged to stay, and that staff who left their jobs earlier in the pandemic out of concerns for their health and safety will return to the field. Ultimately, requiring the vaccines will make long-term care facilities safer places to live, work, and visit.

Every effort must be used to support staff and address their concerns about the vaccine.  With assistance from the federal and state governments, facilities should provide free on-site vaccination; listening sessions with staff about vaccine concerns that could be used to tailor educational and outreach efforts; onsite education about the vaccine as part of infection prevention training; engagement with local public health and trusted community leaders to address issues and provide accurate information; and incentives to staff for getting vaccinated.

As we head into the fall, we are on the precipice of repeating last year's catastrophic events when COVID-19 devastated nursing homes.  As a country, we must take bold action to protect our most vulnerable citizens.   This action by the Biden Administration is a decisive step toward ensuring our family, friends, and loved ones are protected.

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