ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) endorsed mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for healthcare workers on Thursday, July 29, 2021.

The organization represents more than 14,000 long-term care and nursing homes nationally.

One reason for the endorsement is the Delta variant of COVID-19 and those who are unvaccinated. “Unvaccinated individuals remain at high risk and can spread the virus to others, including vaccinated individuals,” according to an AHCA/NCAL statement. “Our residents are some of the most vulnerable individuals to the consequences of contracting COVID-19.”

AHCA/NCAL encourages long term care providers who are implementing mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policies to:

  • Provide exemptions for medical reasons and accommodations consistent with Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines (e.g., a sincerely held religious belief, practice or observance); 
  • ​Follow relevant Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) infection control guidelines, Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirements, and other federal and state regulations regarding use of personal protective equipment and other infection control practices for unvaccinated staff receiving an exemption or accommodation. For example, unvaccinated personnel may be required to wear a mask at all times even if CDC guidelines and OSHA requirements were to relax mask requirements for vaccinated personnel; 
  • Ensure the policy is implemented in a manner consistent with local and state laws; 
  • Follow requirements and guidelines from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and CDC on which individuals are eligible and should be prioritized for vaccination; 
  • Monitor national safety and efficacy data for all FDA authorized or approved vaccines in use;
  • Continue providing education about the efficacy and safety of COVID-19 vaccines to encourage staff to obtain the vaccine voluntarily in a culturally sensitive and appropriate manner; and 
  • Offer scheduling flexibility and/or time off to ensure personnel have time to obtain the vaccine and recover from its possible side effects.

On Monday, July 26, LeadingAge released a statement joining healthcare organizations in requiring vaccines for all staff in long-term care and other healthcare settings.

LeadingAge represents 5,000 nonprofit organizations in the United States.

Other organizations joining the call include the American Hospital Association (July 21) and The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine (AMDA).