Updated July 27 at 1:34 p.m. with new information.
WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 27, 2021)—As new variants of COVID-19 are on the rise and vaccination rates are stalling around the country, LeadingAge joined leading health care organizations calling for requiring vaccines for all staff in long-term care and other health care settings.
LeadingAge represents more than 5,000 nonprofit aging services providers across the United States—including nursing homes, providers of care at home and in the community, adult day services; affordable housing, assisted living, life plan and independent living communities, hospice and providers of federal PACE (Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly) services.
“Care providers have been working around the clock to steadily increase the number of residents and staff who are vaccinated, and COVID deaths have plummeted, but it’s time to do more. As COVID-19 variants emerge and proliferate, we can start saving more lives today by ensuring staff are fully vaccinated,” said Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO of LeadingAge.
In a statement released to its members and the public, the association encouraged members to make vaccines a condition of employment for all health care 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 emphasized that the vaccines have proven to be safe and effective in preventing infection, reducing the spread of the virus and the chance of serious illness or death.
“Throughout the pandemic, long-term care providers have demonstrated their dedication, commitment and bravery in the face of deadly challenges never faced before,” added Sloan. “By mandating these highly effective vaccines, they will be doing everything possible to deliver safe, quality care to the older adults and others they serve.”
COVID-19 vaccinations are the most effective tool to protect from the virus, but nursing home staff vaccination rates vary widely across the country, with a national rate of 61.51%, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). The most recent CMS statistics show that as of July 11, 81.7% of residents and 67% of staff at LeadingAge member communities were fully vaccinated.
LeadingAge members who have already established vaccine mandates report that, with very few exceptions, staff comply and get the vaccines that protect themselves, their families, their coworkers, and the people they serve.
The separate joint statement signed by LeadingAge and over 40 other health associations notes that a growing number of experts and organizations are calling for mandatory COVID-19 vaccines, and that many healthcare settings already require vaccinations against threats like influenza, hepatitis B, and pertussis.
The other signers include American Medical Association, American Nursing Association, American Pharmaceutical Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Public Health Association, Association of American Medical Colleges, Council of Medical Specialty Societies, Infectious Disease Society of America, National Hispanic Medical Association, Society of Hospital Medicine, and others.
Other organizations who have made similar calls include the American Hospital Association, and The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine (AMDA).
While initial reports said the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) had signed on, the organization sent out a statement Tuesday that those reports were inaccurate.
"We believe every health care provider must decide for itself how best to serve the interests of its patients, while respecting the sensitivities of its employees," said the association in a statement.
The NAHC board of directors did pledge to each receive the vaccine as soon as it was available, and fulfilled that pledge, the statement continued. "NAHC and its members will continue to work toward full vaccination of every person in homecare, home health, and hospice through education, persuasion, and incentivization. The COVID-19 vaccines available to Americans are safe and effective and we urge everyone to get vaccinated as soon as possible,” the association concluded.