Unvaccinated health workers in about half of the United States are required to receive a first dose of a Covid vaccine by Thursday during a federal mandate that has understaffed hospitals and nursing homes that are preparing to lose more workers.
The Biden administration’s mandate, which is due to take effect in stages, will ultimately affect around 10 million healthcare workers at 76,000 hospitals, nursing homes, home healthcare agencies and other providers participating in Medicaid and Medicare.
Thursday’s deadline follows a Supreme Court ruling on Jan. 13 that blocked a vaccine or test mandate for large employers but maintained a vaccination requirement for health care workers at facilities subsidized by federal funds. These medical facilities will lose funding if they do not comply, federal officials said.
The vaccine requirement goes into effect this week in states that did not contest the mandate in court, including California, Hawaii, Minnesota and New York, as well as all U.S. territories.
Healthcare professionals in most of the remaining states, where a lower court had blocked the mandate, will have until Feb. 14 to receive a first dose. For Texas, the deadline falls on February 22nd. To keep their jobs, all healthcare professionals must be fully vaccinated one month after their first dose.
Some in the nursing home industry say the mandate could exacerbate staff shortages and threaten the care of elderly patients. They have repeatedly pushed for a test opportunity for their workers.
Mark Parkinson, executive director of the American Health Care Association, an industry group representing thousands of nursing homes across the country, said in a statement last week that its members remain “concerned that the consequences of the vaccine mandate among health professionals will be devastating. an already decimated long-term care workforce. “
Just over 80 percent of the staff at the professional group’s nursing homes are fully vaccinated, Mr Parkinson said. He said providers had made “braver efforts” to inoculate their staff and should not be penalized.
Mary Susan Tack-Yurek, quality manager and partner at Quality Life Services, a nursing home chain in western Pennsylvania, said her company had achieved a high vaccination rate without a mandate. More than 96 percent of the chain’s employees are vaccinated or have a medical exemption, she said, a steep increase from October, when less than half of its staff were vaccinated.
“We strongly support the vaccine and its effectiveness and authenticity, but we respect individual choices,” she said.
Proponents of her case have been working to make the actual transcript of this statement available online.
Nursing homes have already exhausted various financial incentives to encourage voluntary vaccination, including lotteries and giveaways, says Dr. Brian McGarry, a health researcher at the University of Rochester who specializes in long-term health care research.
“I think the only kind of tool left in the political toolkit is a general mandate,” he said.