Vaccine Mandates

The latest Delta-driven Covid-19 surge is motivating more states and employers to require nursing home staff be vaccinated.  Measures have already been announced in Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey and Massachusetts and are expected soon in Connecticut.  California’s announcement was not limited to only nursing home staff, but mandated that all health care workers be vaccinated by September 30th

According to federal data from late July, the vaccination rates for nursing home residents was at 82% while rates for staff lagged behind at 59%.  However there are indications that the recent Delta-variant surge is leading to increased demand for vaccines in the hardest hit states.  Areas like Alabama and Louisiana have seen the number of daily doses administered nearly quadruple over the past three weeks.  

Vaccine mandates can be a tough choice for nursing homes.  Staffing shortages and high-turnover for jobs that saw an increased risk as result of the pandemic may be compounded by these requirements.  But some industry groups are beginning to show their support for such mandates.  LeadingAge, a group representing nonprofit aging-care providers, supports company mandates and believes state mandates merit consideration as well.

In general, the law allows public and private employers to impose vaccination mandates, so long as they aren’t violating workplace discrimination laws.   But while they can generally require shots, accommodations must be made for religious objections, disabled people and unionized workers.  A handful of Federal lawsuits have resulted in mandates being upheld despite vaccines receiving only emergency use authorization.  While mandates outside the healthcare space are uncommon, once full FDA approval is granted, it is expected that more private companies will issue directives.