AARP calls on nursing homes to require vaccines for residents and staff

Posted at 6:09 PM, Aug 17, 2021

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (KMTV) - AARP's COVID-19 Dashboard reports under a quarter of assisted living facilities have 75 percent of their staff vaccinated.

RELATED: Biden to require nursing homes get staff vaccinated or lose federal funds, reports say

In Iowa, AARP reports more than 2,300 residents and nursing home staff have died from COVID-19.

Vaccination rates have increased. Ninety-one percent of residents and 62% of staff have gotten their shots. AARP Iowa State Director Brad Anderson says it's still not enough.

"We know the industry has fallen short and so we're calling on nursing home staff and residents to get vaccinated and for nursing homes to require that vaccination because once we require it, we're not going to return to what we saw in 2020," Anderson said.

Anderson says it will be up to individual nursing homes to find ways to mandate it like offering incentives.

"We still have a long way to go. To get to that benchmark, we know we're going to have to require it. It just can't be optional," Anderson said.

Iowa Health Care Association President & CEO Brent Willett believes dealing with the virus in nursing homes will need a more comprehensive approach.

"We do not believe that using a mandate as a blunt force instrument to force people to be vaccinated is the right approach," Willett said.

Willett believes more education is the answer.

"We are focused at our association on making more education, tools available to our members and their staff members about how this vaccine works, addressing some of the rumors about its safety and efficacy and helping them make their own decisions," Willett said.

Pottawattamie County Public Health's Matt Wyant says there are factors nursing homes need to consider before mandating anything.

"Coming in and out of the facility all the time you have your hospice workers, you have your physical therapists, all different types of workers, that come from different entities. It would be a struggle for them to mandate those different things," Wyant said.

Ultimately, Willett says he believes the state is heading in the right direction and is sensitive to all the concerns about vaccines.

"We have to make sure we recognize and honor those concerns and make resources available to folks to make their own decisions and most importantly ask staff members and residents to speak with their doctors about this and not get their medical information off of social media," Willett said.

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