WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden announced last week all nursing home staff will be required to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
The new mandate could take effect as soon as next month.
Across the country, nursing homes are now faced with a choice: to mandate that staff members get vaccinated or lose Medicaid and Medicare funding.
This decision is in an effort to keep COVID-19 cases out of nursing homes. According to the latest government data, the percent of vaccinated staff per facility nationally is 61 percent. In Indiana, that number is 54 percent.
President Biden hopes this new change will encourage staff to get vaccinated.
Some nursing home administrators are worried the decision will cause workers to head for the exits at facilities already struggling to keep employees. Others have applauded Biden’s decision, calling it a way to help protect elderly nursing home residents, who are among the most vulnerable to severe effects of the virus.
Nursing homes have been at the frontlines of the outbreak since the start of the pandemic, and their workers were among the first to be eligible for the vaccine. But hundreds of thousands of nursing home workers nationwide still are not vaccinated, according to federal data. Staff vaccination rates nationwide range from 44 percent to 88 percent, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Many of the recent outbreaks in nursing homes, driven by the emergence of the highly contagious delta variant, areas that have low staff vaccination rates, according to CMS.
Experts warn few nursing homes can survive without Medicaid and Medicare funding, which pays for care at more than 15,000 nursing homes nationwide, according to CMS.