Let’s Keep Rolling Up Our Sleeves to Reach 75 Percent Staff Vaccination COVID-19 Published:June 30, 2021 COVID19@ahca.org Page ContentThis week, AHCA announced that the profession is still working on a nationwide goal to vaccinate 75% of nursing home staff members against COVID-19. The current data from the CDC shows that approximately 57% of staff are fully vaccinated as of early June. However, the industry has made significant strides. Staff vaccinations have increased by 50% since the beginning of the year and providers have identified new and innovative ways to encourage vaccine uptake among staff. And AHCA remains committed to helping the industry soon reach this 75% goal. First, let us applaud the thousands of facilities that did achieve this goal. This is no small feat, and these providers should be proud of their efforts. If this includes your facility, make sure you recognize and celebrate your staff members who rolled up their sleeves, especially those who helped persuade their colleagues. Use our template press release to help let local media and potential consumers know about your success. For those facilities that are still working to meet the goal, don’t give up! Encouraging your staff to get vaccinated against COVID-19 is crucial for their health, as well as the health of your residents. Why Continuing Vaccination Efforts is Critical Lightening of Restrictions. As cases and infections in long term care have dropped, the CDC, CMS, and other public health agencies have eased restrictions. Often though, these hinge on vaccine status. Nursing home staff who are vaccinated are no longer required by CMS to be tested on a routine basis. CMS and CDC allow for communal activities and dining without distancing or masks if everyone is vaccinated. And staff can dine in a break room or meet in a conference room without masks or distancing if they are all vaccinated. Compliance. CMS’ Interim Final Rule on COVID-19 vaccination requires nursing homes to offer, educate and track COVID-19 status. The new Emergency Temporary Standards from OSHA provide exceptions in cases where all staff are fully vaccinated, and the risk of COVID-19 infection is low. Increasing vaccination rates in your facility will help with compliance. Variants. The rise of the Delta variant as the dominant COVID variant throughout the U.S. is a considerable threat to long term care communities. Recent stories suggest that individuals who are fully vaccinated can still acquire this variant. However, the vaccines appear to still be effective in preventing serious illness and/or hospitalizations even if contracted. The vast majority of new COVID hospitalizations and deaths are among unvaccinated individuals. Preventing Outbreaks. Related to the rise of new variants, increasing vaccinations can prevent future outbreaks. When any one person in a facility contracts COVID, that’s considered an outbreak. Nursing homes must often halt visitations until that outbreak is isolated and start testing all staff (regardless of vaccine status) every 3-7 days. Staff should understand the impact of their decision—both the benefits and downsides. Economic Recovery. If census continues to be a challenge for your facility, increasing staff vaccination rates may help give more peace of mind to potential residents and/or their health care decision makers. Family members may expect this before they’ll consider moving a loved one to your facility. Tactics That Work No one method may do it, as Forest Hills in DC shared with the New York Times. Each staff member may have a unique reason, and it’s important for providers to listen, empathize and inform through a measured approach. Continuing to build trust and vaccine confidence takes time and persistence. But here are some tactics providers with high vaccination rates shared that may be helpful. Be sure to check out all our free resources for long term care providers on increasing vaccine confidence on our #GetVaccinated website.