Exemptions, Education Avert Mass Employee Exodus as Vaccine Mandate Deadline Passes
A key COVID-19 vaccine mandate deadline for nursing home employees passed on March 15 without the mass exodus that had been forecast. An important factor behind that, say many stakeholders, is vaccine literacy. "Our focus from the very beginning has been on education. We have an ongoing extensive education campaign where we offer explanation and interpretation of the latest orders, directives and guidance related to the coronavirus pandemic, in addition to providing general information and resources," says Nick Van Der Linden, director of communications for LeadingAge Florida. Meanwhile, Dave Voepel, president and CEO of the Arizona Health Care Association, notes that many employees left due to pandemic fears before any vaccine mandates were established. But exemptions are also a factor, he adds, estimating that 15%-20% of the workforce in Arizona received exemptions, mostly for religious reasons. A spokesperson for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said the agency is focused on bringing healthcare providers and suppliers into compliance, so it will evaluate the severity of any failures to meet the standards and work with providers to resolve any issues before considering more stringent enforcement actions. The spokesperson noted that as part of complaint and standard recertification surveys, the staff vaccination requirement is now being enforced across the country. "While onsite, surveyors will review the healthcare provider’s COVID-19 vaccination policies and procedures, the number of resident and staff COVID-19 cases over the last four weeks, and a list of all staff and their vaccination status," the spokesman said. "This information, in addition to interviews and observations, will be used to determine the compliance of the provider or supplier with these requirements."
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