Last week, Governor Ned Lamont signed an executive order requiring staff at all long-term care facilities in Connecticut to receive at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine before September 7th.
“We know for sure that COVID-19 poses an increased risk of serious illness and death in older adults, especially those with chronic illnesses and weakened immune systems,” said Lamont. “Now that vaccines are widely used and scientifically proven to be safe and the most effective way to prevent hospitalizations and death, it would be absolutely irresponsible for anyone working in a long-term care facility not to receive this protection that was widely used Preventing infection among humans could be those most susceptible to death from this communicable disease, some of which cannot be self-vaccinated for medical reasons. “
According to the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services, around 70 percent of nursing home workers in Connecticut are already vaccinated.
Although Connecticut nursing home staff ranked 11th for vaccination rate
“There are still significant personal concerns. The staff vaccination mandate does not resolve the underlying staff shortages in nursing homes and across Connecticut’s health care sector, and it may very well make the situation worse, “said Matt Barrett, president and CEO of the Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities / Connecticut Center for Assisted Living. “The personnel situation will worsen in the event of a termination of the staff due to non-compliance with the mandate.”
Even so, Barrett said Nursing Homes in Connecticut support executive order as the best defense against a potential third wave of COVID-19 and the spreading Delta variant.
“If implemented on a large scale, the vaccination mandate will provide all residents, employees and others in our communities with maximum protection from the known and significant risks of COVID-19,” said Barrett. “For these reasons, we believe the employee vaccination mandate should extend beyond nursing homes to cover other health care providers serving populations susceptible to the virus, such as hospitals, assisted living communities and home nursing.”
Currently, the only health sector without a mandate is home nursing.
The staffing situation “will need to be closely monitored as we approach the deadlines set in the order,” said Barrett. Nursing homes are currently working to train staff and provide financial incentives to vaccinated employees to combat vaccination hesitation.
“Staff shortages are the main concern and the negative impact could also be felt outside of nursing homes, such as in hospitals when nursing home admissions from hospitals have been delayed or suspended due to staffing issues,” Barrett said. “Ensuring adequate hospital capacity has been a major policy goal since the beginning of the pandemic, so this is another area that needs careful monitoring.”
Although the governor and nursing homes would prefer 100 percent vaccination compliance, the executive order provides for both medical and religious exemptions, despite Connecticut lawmakers lifting the religious exemption for childhood vaccinations last April.
“The federal civil rights law protects the right of the individual to invoke a religious exception. The implementing ordinance leaves the decision-making process and the process between employer and employee, ”explains Max Reiss, communications director of the regional council. “When a number of workers begin to apply for a religious exemption that has never been used before, it is up to the employer to determine whether it is sincere, legitimate and compatible with the law.”
Barrett said it is unclear how many employees could request such exemptions, but individual nursing homes are currently assessing the potential impact these could have on their policies and practices.