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State's largest nursing home provider will soon require vaccinations for employees

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Posted at 9:53 AM, Apr 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-13 10:43:55-04

INDIANAPOLIS — The state’s largest provider of nursing home and senior care facilities, American Senior Communities, will soon require its employees to be vaccinated for COVID-19.

American Senior Communities has launched a mandatory vaccination program requiring COVID-19 vaccination(s) for all employees, including contracted third-party staff, effective June 1, 2021.

“In accordance with our mission to compassionately serve every resident with quality care and excellence, we firmly believe that vaccinating all employees is essential for our customer’s safety and health,” read a statement from American Senior Communities. “The residents and families we serve are very important to us and we will continue to be in close contact with local, state, and federal health authorities, following their guidance, mandates, and reporting requirements as we move forward with compassion and an over-abundance of caution and quality care.”

ASC and its partner, Health and Hospital Corporation, operate 78 skilled nursing facilities and five assisted living facilities across the state of Indiana.

Zach Cattell, president of the Indiana Health Care Association, which represents many Indiana nursing home facilities, said he was aware of at least one other long-term care provider that has also started requiring the vaccine for workers.

“Companies have made this decision or are considering are doing so to protect their residents and employees alike,” said Cattell. “All companies implementing or considering implementation must comply with federal law that permits exemptions from a mandatory vaccination policy for health and religious reasons.”

In a letter sent to American Senior Communities’ employees, it says employees must submit exemption requests on or before April 30, and they can choose which COVID-19 vaccine pharmaceutical brand they want to have.

Indiana nursing homes have been hit hard by COVID-19, resulting in 6,180 resident deaths and 22 employee deaths—half of the state’s death toll from the virus.

According to a Center for Public Integrity study released on March 31, half of nursing home workers refused the shot or had not received it.

The Center for Public Integrity said an estimated 25% of long-term care workers in Indiana have received two doses of the vaccine.

Nursing home residents have accounted for a third of the nation’s COVID-19 cases, read the study.“As rollouts accelerate across the country, most in long-term care have taken the coronavirus vaccine, offering a light at the end of the tunnel for loved ones hoping to visit in person after months of quarantining and separation,” read the report. “There’s one problem. Many of the staff caring for those vulnerable residents have refused it.”

A statement from the Indiana Health Care Association/Indiana Center for Assisted Living reads:

“Long-term care (LTC) facilities care for some of the most vulnerable population that has been most greatly impacted by COVID-19, and it is critical that our health care heroes on the frontlines get the needed protection from the COVID-19 vaccine. It is our understanding that this decision to mandate the vaccine by some LTC providers stems from (1) the need to protect our frontline health care heroes and (2) the fact that the available vaccines meet the highest safety standards and efficacy levels preventing both mild and severe symptoms of COVID-19 across age groups, racial and ethnic groups.

Additionally, while the rise of new variants of the vaccine continue to remain a threat, especially if community spread remains rampant [cnn.com], more variants will continue to emerge which can have a devastating impact on LTC residents and staff. Independent research [ahcancal.org] from our nation’s top academic institutions and the federal government indicate that the rate of spread within a surrounding community is a primary factor in the likelihood of an outbreak in a nursing home. Experts agree that vaccines are the best hope we have to ending the pandemic as quickly as possible and getting as many LTC staff vaccinated as possible enables us to get ahead of the potential threats and continue to ensure the safety and well-being of our most vulnerable citizens.

At IHCA/INCAL, we are focused on educating our members i.e. LTC care providers, staff, residents and family members about the importance the COVID-19 vaccine, dispelling any myths and building confidence in the community to get vaccinated. The more people we can get vaccinated, the sooner we can put an end to this pandemic, and we are actively working toward this end. We are leveraging the #GetVaccinated campaign to encourage those in the long-term care community to consent to the vaccine as well as provide credible information to empower our population to make an informed decision.”