Vaccine Mandate For Nursing Home Healthcare Workers
A new vaccine mandate to get the majority of America's workforce vaccinated is going into effect at the federal level. This new requirement focuses on larger businesses and healthcare workers, especially nursing home workers, who must participate in mandatory vaccinations to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Most elderly nursing home patients and even visitors of such facilities are highly at risk of contracting the virus from unvaccinated staff, presenting concerns to experts working to squelch the disease's spread, particularly to vulnerable populations.
The new vaccination mandate aims to impose the initiative on all nursing care facilities that depend on federal healthcare funding, including Medicare and Medicaid. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will enforce the mandate in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These two federal government agencies will develop new emergency regulations requiring all Medicare- and Medicaid-dependent nursing homes to urge their employees to get the COVID-19 vaccination, often with consequences for those who don't comply, including the pull-back of monetary incentives to the nursing homes specifically.
The new directive, if fully implemented, will target over 15,000 nursing facilities and more than 1.6 million workers. The move for mandatory vaccinations for health care and nursing home staff elicited mixed reactions, with vaccine proponents arguing that it'll help minimize infection rates within these overpopulated facilities and safeguard the health of the elderly and other chronically ill patients.
However, most nursing home stakeholders have raised concern that the new directive will adversely affect an already serious situation of worker shortages. The majority are concerned the move will send most workers packing when they're already fighting to retain the reduced workforces at these facilities.Why the Need for Mandatory Vaccinations?
The federal directive is part of an effort to curb the grave and ongoing effects of the global pandemic, particularly amidst the emergence and upsurge of the more recent Delta variant, which is already wreaking havoc in most parts of the country. Additionally, the new directive was informed by data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). The government agencies indicated an unprecedented increase in COVID-19 infection rates among nursing home residents and low vaccination rates among nursing home workers. According to the directive, these long-term care facilities are typically crowded with the elderly, sick, and other vulnerable members of society highly susceptible to infection from unvaccinated employees.
According to the data, an estimated 62% of the nursing home workforce have been fully vaccinated. CMS information also puts state vaccination rates at anywhere from 44-88%. Previously, the federal government had taken various initiatives to encourage mass vaccination exercises among its employees. However, this is the first time the federal government has threatened to cut funding for non-compliant organizations that refuse to mandate their workforce receive the vaccine.
Like other health care and other industries, the COVID-19 pandemic left a devastating impact on long-term care facilities. Most nursing homes are currently facing significant setbacks in the recruitment and retention of employees. Many employees are anti-vaccine, with health concerns and religious beliefs being the primary catalysts. Given these prevailing circumstances, there are concerns from nursing home stakeholders that the federal vaccine mandate will only worsen the workforce shortage crisis.
However, despite concerns, mixed acceptance, and varying degrees of pushback, the new order is set to take effect as early as September 2021.How Lack Of Vaccination Affects Nursing Home Residents And Elderly Patients
The uptick in the newer Delta variant has had a devastating impact on several nursing home facilities across the country. For instance, in nursing homes in Chicago and the Greater Illinois regions, residents are highly vulnerable to COVID-19 given its high population, which comprises many senior citizens. Nursing home residents are helpless and can't avoid exposure to unvaccinated health care workers. Most suffer from chronic and terminal health conditions, making them immunocompromised and, thereby, highly vulnerable to infection. Health care workers who care for these high-risk populations need to receive complete vaccinations to reduce the risk of the virus spreading rapidly, resulting in severe illness or death.
Massive outbreaks have been reported in most nursing homes across the state during the pandemic, now mainly due to the more contagious Delta variant. But, perhaps the most notable and devastating flare-up was the LaSalle Veterans' Home COVID-19 outbreaks in 2020 that claimed the lives of at least 36 veterans at the facility. To prove just how damaging it was, we're currently handling multiple wrongful death lawsuits on behalf of grieving families accusing the facility of negligence.
It's of little surprise, though, that outbreaks like the one at LaSalle Veterans' Home happen. Any facility packed with vulnerable residents is bound to have widespread cases as any new virus introduced could turn catastrophic quickly with such apt hosts. This phenomenon of rapid viral spread also points to the need for regulated nursing homes, and this is where the new vaccine mandate comes into play.
These facilities can potentially lose federal health care funding if they fail to adopt measures to vaccinate their workforce and protect their home residents. Despite Illinois' government taking steps to immunize nursing homes during the pandemic via Governor Pritzker's executive order, several facilities failed to take the cue resulting in the loss of many lives.Mixed Reactions to the Vaccine Mandate
The proposed vaccine mandate received mixed views and opinions from various stakeholders in the long-term care sector. Most are concerned about the looming worker shortage crisis that the introduction of the new regulations will likely exacerbate.
Others have applauded the decision, describing it as a way to protect the most vulnerable residents of these facilities, particularly the elderly. These proponents of the vaccine cite the disparities in vaccination rates among nursing care staff, which according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, are as high as 88% and as low as 44%.
While most of these long-term care facilities are in a situation of being under-vaccinated, they face a possible withdrawal of state health care funding if the status of vaccination doesn't change. Consequently, experts have warned that only a few of these facilities can stay afloat without Medicaid and Medicare, which funds more than 15,000 nursing homes all over the country.Employment Vaccine Mandate And Legal Implementations
In response to the vaccine mandate, the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for the COVID-19 vaccines used in the U.S. This move aimed to ensure all vaccines can be administered in emergencies even if the FDA is yet to approve them under normal standard procedure.
Furthermore, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a new directive allowing employers to mandate their workforce to receive the vaccines while adhering to federal anti-discrimination laws. While upholding the new requirements, employers must consider the religious and disability-related factors that may inspire objections.
Although currently, no laws subject employees to mandatory vaccinations, the wheels have been set in motion, and it's just a matter of time before it becomes a legal requirement. Also, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ), the widespread implementation of the COVID-19 jabs across multiple sectors has fueled nationwide support of mandatory vaccination for individuals seeking to participate, enroll, work, learn, or access certain goods and services.
In conclusion, the law, particularly the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, has made provisions for employers to mandate vaccination where vaccines have been authorized for emergency administration.Get Legal Support
Most nursing home facilities are at risk for a resurgence or sudden increase in COVID-19 cases among their residents. We know how devastating it is to lose a loved one through a wrongful death that could have potentially been avoided. With the new vaccine directive in place, these facilities must adhere to the mandated safety guidelines and vaccinate their workforce.
If you or a loved one has been exposed to an infected nursing care staff member while visiting or receiving care in these facilities, you can take legal action against such negligence. If you have a complaint about your exposure to COVID-19 in a nursing home facility, we may be able to help you seek justice. Contact us today for a free consultation allowing us the opportunity to thoroughly evaluate the circumstances surrounding your case and provide you with legal advice on how to proceed for the best possible outcome.