Parker Strives for 100% Vaccination for All
By Roberto Muñiz
Since the first day that COVID vaccine became available to senior living, Parker was eager to arrange vaccinations for all its residents and staff. I am very proud to say that nearly all of our elders were fully vaccinated in the winter, as part of an aggressive, coordinated plan involving all of our campuses.
We have also made huge strides to vaccinate our staff members, each of whom has the discretion of deciding if he or she should be vaccinated. More than 75% of our employees have been inoculated, to date.
I am pleased that Parker is significantly above the state average of 58% in regard to the number of nursing home and assisted living staff members who have been vaccinated.
Gov. Phil Murphy called that rate “unacceptably low” last week, suggesting he may mandate shots for long-term care staff who work in New Jersey. It remains unclear whether the governor has the power to make such a move without the support of the state Legislature.
Leaders of the Health Care Association of New Jersey do not believe there should be a mandate that singles out nursing homes, as such a requirement would make it more difficult for us to compete for the best workers with hospitals, home health agencies and others who provide elder care.
Yet some nursing homes in New Jersey are taking a hard stance with vaccination, as they struggle to maintain health and safety on their campuses. According to recently released information by the New Jersey Department of Health, 35 of the state’s 378 nursing homes are now requiring vaccine as a condition of employment, while 80 others have informed the state they are considering a mandate.
That meshes with a growing trend across the United States, as administrators in senior living are eager to control this pandemic at every potential access point.
Recently, a Pennsylvania doctor penned an opinion piece in USA Today, noting that rates of the disease among nursing homes residents have decreased by more than 80% since vaccination began. Yet, nearly a quarter of nursing home or assisted care staff have no plans of getting vaccinated, according to a recent poll. And, the doctor rightfully concludes, unvaccinated health care workers present a direct risk to patients.
The doctor notes that it is now common practice for many senior living homes to require staff to have influenza vaccine. Yet, oddly, the COVID vaccine is not mandatory in those same locations, driving up risk.
At Parker, we have approached this difficult issue through encouragement and education. I have directly spoken with many Parker staff, letting them know the vaccine is readily available for anyone who has a change of heart.
Parker has also launched a significant internal education campaign, highlighting the fact that these vaccines have been proven safe, have already saved countless lives and will help ensure the entire Parker community is as safe as possible.
Until there is a mandate from the government, or some other critical policy shift, Parker will stay the course. We will strive for 100% vaccination within our entire community through a direct appeal to staff, and I urge all of you to do the same.