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Can Nursing Homes Require COVID Vaccines for Residents?

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Key Summary

Find out if senior living communities can require COVID-19 vaccination for residents and staff, and learn why residents can be particularly susceptible to COVID.

As we continue to navigate through the COVID pandemic, questions still remain about regulations for those who are living in (or considering a move to) Residential Care Facilities, Long-Term Care Facilities, Nursing Homes and other types of retirement communities. 

Here’s what we know for sure after more than two years of the pandemic: Seniors are particularly vulnerable to the COVID virus. The older we get, the greater the immune dysfunction we have, which means we have a higher risk of complications from COVID-19. If you have underlying conditions such as COPD, cancer, a heart condition, obesity, or Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, it can increase your risk of severe illness should you get COVID-19. 

Nevertheless, when you’re living on your own, it’s 100% up to you whether you get the COVID vaccination and subsequent boosters. The question is: can Nursing Homes require COVID vaccines for residents? Today we’re going to give you the answer, along with the latest government regulations regarding vaccinations for staff members—and an explanation of why residents of Nursing Homes can be particularly susceptible to COVID. 

CDC Guidelines for Long-Term Care Facilities 

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has recommended COVID-19 vaccines for all residents of Nursing Homes and other Long-Term Care Facilities. However, it is NOT a requirement. Nursing Homes cannot require COVID vaccination as a condition of staying in a facility. 

COVID Guidelines for Residential Care Facilities   

According to the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, residents of Nursing Homes have been severely impacted by COVID-19 and are disproportionately represented in the number of COVID-related deaths in the United States. 

Although we have seen overwhelming evidence that vaccines work, for some people it might not be a viable option. If you have an allergy to one of the vaccine components, your doctor will recommend you don’t take the vaccine; this is known as a medical exemption. Some individuals may decline vaccination because of a sincerely held religious belief; this is called the religious exemption. However, you do not have to provide a reason for declining vaccinations. It’s your choice. 

Nursing home staffers can also claim medical or religious exemptions—but other than those exceptions, in most cases staffers ARE required to have the COVID-19 vaccination in any Nursing Homes that participate in Medicare and Medicaid programs. Nursing Homes are also required by the "Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services" (CMS) to monitor weekly COVID-19 vaccination data for residents and healthcare personnel. Resident and staff vaccination data from Nursing Homes may also be monitored by your state. 

Religion may impact many areas of your day-to-day life, in addition to your beliefs around vaccines. If religion is important to you, take a look at our article “Faith-Based Senior Living Communities”

How Nursing Homes Can Work to Prevent the Spread of COVID 

Because so many seniors in Nursing Homes have underlying medical conditions that make them more vulnerable to the virus, and they’re living close together with dozens of other residents, they’re more susceptible to COVID. Nursing Homes implement a number of strategies to prevent the spread of the virus, including: 

  • Vaccination of staffers. 
  • Regular testing of staffers and residents. 
  • Source control: masks, face coverings, and other respiratory protection. 
  • Hand hygiene, including frequent washing of hands and use of hand sanitizers. 
  • Physical distancing. 
  • Effective cohorting techniques. 
  • Appropriate use of personal protective equipment (PPE) when necessary. 
  • Instructional signage throughout the Nursing Home. 
  • Communication about the virus with staffers and residents, including the latest updates regarding vaccines and boosters. 
  • Cleaning and disinfecting high-frequency touched surfaces and equipment. 
  • Appropriate ventilation and engineering controls to improve air quality.

What You Can Do 

If you’re a resident of a Nursing Home or you have a loved one in a Nursing Home, you have the right to know the data. Residents and their families can ask the community administration about the current COVID-19 vaccination rate among staff and residents. 

Find Your New Community Today 

The right senior living community will make you feel safe and at home, and respect your vaccination status.  

Referah Family Connection Agents can help you find the perfect new community for you. From Independent Living and Assisted Living to specialized Memory Care, we can help you choose a property that meets your unique needs and location requirements out of thousands, saving you time and making your search easy. Get in touch with our team today! 

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