Nursing homes concerned about impact of Biden’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate on staffing, patients


FILE – In this July 17, 2020 file photo, a senior citizen holds the hand of a care coordinator at a Health facility in Miami. Federal health officials on Friday unveiled a plan to get approved coronavirus vaccines to nursing home residents free of cost, with the aid of two national pharmacy chains.
No vaccine has yet been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and the distribution program is contingent on that happening first. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

President Biden issued a new mandate requiring all nursing home staff be vaccinated against COVID-19, but health care officials say the new guidelines could have devastating effects. 

“We were disappointed to see long-term care and nursing home settings specifically singled out because we think it will fall short of the intended affect,” said Zach Cattell, president of the Indiana Health Care Association. “From what we heard and understood, this could be implemented as early as September.”

Officials say the new guidelines could have devastating effects.  

“I think the first initial reaction was why were nursing homes only included in the mandate?” asked Eric Essley, president of Leading Age Indiana.

Essley says the current mandate could negatively impact staffing, which is already at a critical low. 

“We are concerned this particular vaccine mandate, that does not include these other health care settings, is going to drive nursing home staff away from nursing homes to other healthcare settings,” Essley said.

He says this could affect the care of long-term care residents.  

“If a facility is unable to retain enough staff because of vaccine hesitancy, then it certainly could result in [affecting] that person’s care,” Cattell said.

Local nursing homes—like Otterbein—tell me they’re still waiting on details from the Biden administration before making any decisions. Their current staff vaccination rate is 65%, slightly higher than the national average. 

“The long-term care employee vaccination rate right now is better than the state’s vaccination percentage for working age Hoosiers,” Cattell said. “This is our ticket out of this. It’s not about me or I, we’re only going to get out of this together.”

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