As the virus continues to mutate and spread into far-reaching corners of the world, some populations still find themselves at greater risk for infection. Such at-risk groups include elderly individuals residing in nursing homes. Many organizations are requiring that staff members receive vaccinations to battle the spread, but is it a federal mandate?
According to a recent AARP report, several facilities instituted vaccination mandates for residents and staff members. Many facilities have instituted a deadline, after which unvaccinated staff members face termination. While such requirements may face legal challenges, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) provided guidance suggesting that employers have the legal right to require employees to have proof of vaccination.
Can this be considered nursing home negligence?
While elderly loved ones rely on the care and attention of a professional nursing home staff, numerous scenarios put them at risk. From abusive behavior to failure to monitor basic needs, nursing home residents can suffer injuries, illnesses and worsening conditions based on the staff and management of a facility. Many facilities are hesitant to mandate vaccinations due to murky legal standing and concerns centering on medical or religious exemptions. Loved ones of the elderly residents are concerned that an unvaccinated staff can put these at-risk individuals in danger. Is the nursing home negligent if they fail to require vaccinations? As there is no federal mandate, many would suggest that there is no legal liability. However, because of the complexity of these issues, there is no simple answer to the negligence question.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued directives in which nursing homes must report information related to COVID-19 cases among the residents and staff. Additionally, the facilities must test residents and staff for the virus. The new interim final rule imposes additional requirements, including:
- Resident education regarding the vaccine
- Offer vaccines to the residents and staff unless it is medically contraindicated
- The facility must maintain documentation recording the vaccine education and doses administered
So far, the reporting is mandatory, but there is still no requirement for vaccinations. The nursing home management and staff must take steps to ensure the safety and continued health of their elderly residents. When facing an issue as controversial and legally complex as mandatory vaccinations, it is wise to seek experienced guidance.