Here’s Why NJ’s Largest Nursing Home Company Is Forcing COVID Vaccines On Its Employees | Opinion

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By Elizabeth Lizzy Straus

As the country braces for more outbreaks of COVID-19 caused by the Delta variant, leaders in the public and private sectors must recognize some realities. To minimize the spread and best protect the country, we need to vaccinate more people. Our national conversation about this particular vaccine has become politicized, amplified (and sometimes distorted) by mainstream and social media. This happened, despite U.S. general medical officers in the Biden and Trump administrations urging all Americans to get vaccinated. The way forward to avoid future lockdowns, personal restrictions and virtual learning for our children couldn’t be clearer.

But America’s adult population is still less than 50% fully immunized, which is well below the threshold needed for what’s called herd immunity. Given the federal government’s reluctance to order a blanket immunization mandate, it is incumbent on the private sector, as well as state and local governments, to take the lead for urgent action.

California became the first state to mandate vaccination for all its workers, and New York City announced the same for its municipal workers. Veterans Affairs is the first federal agency to mandate vaccination and President Biden has just announced that all federal workers must be vaccinated or undergo regular testing. These are all steps in the right direction, but the majority of these mandates have a big flaw. Employees and contractors have the choice of getting vaccinated or tested weekly, at the taxpayer’s expense.

The private sector has no choice but to act to protect its customers, employees and their respective families and neighbors. Although most private employers encourage immunizations, few require them. This posture must change especially in one of the hardest hit sectors, health.

This is why at CareOne, we have decided to implement a mandate in our system of assisted living facilities, skilled nursing facilities and long-term acute care hospitals. We know that vaccination is the best weapon we have to protect our patients, colleagues and communities from the devastating impact of COVID-19. We understand that getting vaccinated is a personal choice, which we respect. However, this choice affects many other people and the choice not to be vaccinated puts the person, our patients, our colleagues and their families at risk. If all healthcare companies took steps to adopt mandatory vaccination policies, we would serve as a model of responsible leadership.

With COVID infections and hospitalizations on the rise, the healthcare industry must win this final battle in our war against this invisible and deadly enemy. Adopting compulsory vaccination for our workforce is the safest option and the best route to success.

We want to be clear that our goal at CareOne is vaccination, not termination of pregnancy. As New Jersey’s largest nursing home operator with over 11,000 employees and over 70 facilities, we did not make this decision lightly or haphazardly. Many unvaccinated employees told us they would be less reluctant to receive a COVID-19 vaccine once full FDA approval is granted. We are expecting and hoping that at least one vaccine will have full FDA approval by September 30, which is why we have chosen that date as the deadline for our staff. We hope that full FDA approval alleviates some of the anxiety often expressed by unvaccinated people. That is why we implore the federal government to mobilize all of its available resources to expedite FDA approval for all pending applications so that we can remove this important obstacle to our nation’s recovery.

It will take more than just a village. Our country also needs a wave of medical, religious and business leaders, as well as athletes and other influencers to publicly and vehemently advocate for immunization. For the long-term interests of our country, our economy and a return to normalcy, there really is no other way forward.

Elizabeth Straus is the Executive Vice President of CareOne.

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