The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has issued their emergency regulation requiring healthcare workers to become fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by January 4, 2022.
VOYCE advocates on behalf of residents in long-term care and we are pleased to see that this regulation not only includes long-term care clinical and non-clinical staff, but also staff at any healthcare facility. We believe this strikes a crucial balance of protecting vulnerable nursing home residents and keeping long-term care employers on an even playing field with other healthcare employers in a time where nursing homes are seeing historic staffing shortages.
We hope that this will be the beginning of the end of the cruel rolling lockdowns that residents have continued to experience since facilities opened up earlier this year. Each time as staff member or resident was diagnosed with COVID, facilities closed up again for testing, disrupting resident visits, increasing social isolation, and providing an unnecessarily restrictive living environment. Vaccinated staff will help prevent this.
It is also crucial to note that this rule does not include a testing option for those that chose not to get vaccinated, and provides limited exemptions for people with medical or religious reasons. It also includes students, trainees, and volunteers.
In the next month, 43% of long-term care employees in Missouri will need to take their first dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. Missouri is currently last in the nation when it comes to nursing home staff vaccinations. VOYCE calls on all long-term care staff to initiate their vaccinations as soon as possible and for the state of Missouri, the federal government, and their employers to provide as much support to these employees as possible in the way of paid leave to receive the vaccination and recover from side effects, easy access to vaccines in their local communities, and education about the safety of vaccines.
At the heart of this is the right for nursing home residents to be safe in their own homes. Residents should be able to expect that those that care for them provide them with the highest quality of care with strict infection control procedures.