COVID-19 Vaccines To Be Required For All Nursing Home Workers in U.S.

As the U.S continues to see a rise in transmission of the new coronavirus Delta variant, the Biden Administration has announced all nursing home employees must be vaccinated against COVID-19 to protect the nation’s most vulnerable population and its healthcare professionals.

President Joe Biden indicates all nursing home facilities partaking in the Medicare and Medicaid government healthcare programs must require employees receive one of the mRNA vaccines to remain eligible.

The announcement was made following the release of a new COVID-19 vaccine efficacy study published in the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the August edition of it’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), which found early observational studies among nursing homes showed mRNA vaccines to be 53% to 92% effective against SARS-CoV-2.

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According to the CDC’s report, researchers compared weekly data from 3,862 nursing homes and long-term care facilities from March 2021 through May 2021, finding two-dose vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech (PFE.N), and Moderna (MRNA.O) were 74.7% effective against infection among nursing home residents early in the vaccination program.

The Biden Administration stated in a press release following the release of the MMWR, that while both two-dose vaccinations have become widely available, nursing homes have not required staff members to be vaccinated, and those that opt not to receive it are putting higher risk patients at an unnecessary risk.

“I’m using the power of the federal government as a payer of healthcare costs to insure we reduce those risks to our most vulnerable seniors,” Biden said at the White House last week. “These steps are all about keeping people safe and out of harm’s way.”

The report found during the June to July 2021 period, when the circulation of the Delta variant inclined drastically, the effectiveness of the vaccine declined significantly to 53.1%. The CDC report further stated the Delta variant accounted for 80% of new U.S. infections last month.

The Biden Administration announced that, as a result of these increased risks of the new variant, nursing home residents and staff will be top priority as a booster shot is developed, which is anticipated to be available in September for those that have been fully vaccinated.

With more than 1.3 million residents in over 15,000 Medicare and Medicaid-certified nursing homes throughout the United States, significant attention has been placed on the devastating impact of the infections at nursing homes. According to the CDC, COVID-19 disproportionately affected U.S. nursing homes, accounting for an estimated 216,219 confirmed cases and more than 54,000 deaths among residents and staff.

Lawmakers Also Move To Protect Nursing Home Residents

As a result of the tragic losses, Democratic Senators have introduced a bill designed to address many of the problems linked to nursing home issue such as low pay, turnover rates, understaffing and lack of registered nurses, all of which are well known to increase the risk of nursing home neglect.

Senators Ron Wyden of Oregon and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania introduced Senate bill S.2674 on August 10, which would require nursing home facilities to maintain a documented infection control policy and keep an infection prevention and control specialist on staff. Facilities would also be required to keep a registered nurse available 24 hour a day, increasing the current requirement from eight hours per day.

Prior research has shown nursing home residents are more likely to receive poor care when facilities are understaffed, leaving them prone to suffering from bed sores, falls, fractures and other forms of nursing home injuries when staff at a facility are stretched thin.

The CDC published a study in September highlighting a link between COVID-19 and nursing home quality of care, indicating facilities which scored better in federal ratings have been less likely to experience severe outbreaks at their facilities.

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