Ask OmniSure is a series that answers real risk and safety questions from policyholders and insurers all over the country.
Some staff at my nursing home have elected to turn down the first round of COVID vaccinations, leading residents and families to voice concerns about those staff members. Should we mandate vaccination?
While most of the world is anxiously awaiting their COVID-19 vaccination and with it a dose of normalcy, not everyone is keen on being the first in line. Some healthcare workers have expressed concerns about being among the first to receive the new, quickly approved vaccine. What employers and staff need to know is that while it is completely legal to require staff to get a COVID-19 vaccination, that course of action may not yield the best results.
Strict vaccination requirements can lead to staff shortages or pushback from employees and media. Brett Coburn, an attorney with Alston & Bird in Atlanta, recommends, “Rather than implementing mandates that could lead to such difficult decisions, employers may wish to focus on steps they can take to encourage and incentivize employees to get vaccinated.”
Facilities can implement the following before turning to a mandate:
- Vaccination education campaigns
- Improving access to vaccination
- Cover costs associated with the vaccination
- Provide paid time off for employees to get the vaccine and need to recover from any potential side effects
Companies like Trader Joes, Dollar General, and Aldi have introduced incentives for employees who opt to get the vaccination. Many groups that would offer incentives but haven’t yet are urging the EEOC to to clarify legality of vaccine incentives so as not to violate any rights per the ADA.
As the number of staff receiving vaccination increases, facilities should continue to stay in communication with residents and family members. It’s important that involved parties know what steps you are taking to ensure the safety of all staff and residents.
OmniSure Specialist on Senior Living and Home Health Care, Diana Patten, LNFA, CALM, CDP, HHA recommends thoughtful and frequent communication to residents re-iterating that the facility is continuing to follow guidance from the CDC which still includes using appropriate PPE and practicing strict infection control practices.
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