In the long-term care industry, forward-thinking CEOs have also become Health Care Heroes for their efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. From wireless nurse call systems to innovative Smart Badges, technological advances have helped to combat the virus. With the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccinations now underway, long-term care residents and employees can finally envision the day when isolation and loneliness in nursing homes will be a distant memory.
But as the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines continues across America, many workers still have unanswered questions about the vaccination process. One of the biggest questions among working Americans is, “Can workplaces require a COVID-19 vaccine?” This question is particularly relevant among healthcare employees and essential workers whose jobs require direct contact with other people. Below is a detailed response to this question. We also discuss some steps businesses can take to foster a safe work environment for employees.
Are There Times When Workplaces Can Require a COVID-19 Vaccine?
It’s possible, but only under very specific circumstances. Some workplaces may be justified in requiring vaccinations if employees who have not been vaccinated present a threat to their colleagues. The most compelling cases for a vaccine mandate are those that involve a high likelihood that non-vaccinated employees would put colleagues, customers, and visitors at risk:
“Employers may require vaccines before employees return to the worksite if the failure to be vaccinated constitutes a direct threat to other employees in the workplace because the virus is rampant and easily transmitted in the workplace,” – Robin Samuel, Attorney, Baker McKenzie
A few long-term care providers have already taken the stance of requiring employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19, however some state governments are looking to ban employee vaccination requirements altogether. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that workers check with their employers to learn about specific state or local laws that may require them to be vaccinated. You can start by talking to your manager or Human Resource Director. Many employers distribute or post details in highly visible locations such as break room bulletin boards.
What Do Professional Healthcare Organizations Say About the Vaccine?
The American Hospital Association (AHA), American Medical Association (AMA), and American Nurses Association (ANA) recently penned a letter to healthcare workers. In their letter, they do not directly answer the question, “Can workplaces require a COVID-19 vaccine?” However, they urge healthcare workers to get the COVID-19 vaccine and discuss their experience with other people:
“As frontline caregivers, our essential role in protecting the health and wellbeing of our communities goes beyond the care we provide. As a valued and trusted voice, our example is perhaps the strongest health resource we have. Our hope is simple; we urge you to get the COVID-19 vaccine and share your experience with others.” – American Hospital Association, American Medical Association, and American Nurses Association
Notably, the letter uses the word “hope” multiple times with regard to vaccination. They acknowledge that the vaccination “does not signal an immediate end to our nation’s suffering.” But the vaccine is viewed as necessary in order to overcome the virus and potentially bring an end to loneliness in nursing homes and other COVID-19-related challenges.
Could the COVID-19 Vaccine Become Mandatory in the Future?
“Once we know more about the vaccine, it’s possible that it will become mandatory. We need to know much more about how long the vaccine protects people and what may happen over time.” – Penn Medicine, University of Pennsylvania
As more people are successfully vaccinated, questions about the future may arise. For instance, it’s natural to wonder, “Can workplaces require a COVID-19 vaccine in the future?” or, “Can workplaces require a COVID-19 vaccine for frontline workers who are pregnant?“
The federal government does not currently require that individuals receive the vaccine. But this stance could change in the future as more information becomes available about the vaccine and its long-term effects. The best thing to do is follow state, local, and federal news regarding the COVID-19 vaccine. By remaining informed, you can prepare yourself and your employees for the future.
What Can Businesses Do to Emphasize Safety as the Vaccine Is Rolled Out?
The process includes giving clear responses to concerns like, “Can workplaces require a COVID-19 vaccine?” while highlighting the many positive aspects of the vaccines. Here are some simple steps businesses can take to create a safer work environment while vaccinations are underway:
- Step One: Educate workers. Make sure all employees know when they are eligible to receive the vaccine and provide information on how they can sign up. Distribute details in writing and verbally.
- Step Two: Encourage vaccination. Share the letter distributed by the AHA, AMA, and ANA to motivate employees to do their part.
- Step Three: Remain positive. Address loneliness in nursing homes by focusing on a healthier future as more people are vaccinated.
By following these simple steps, you can make sure your employees stay educated and informed about the COVID-19 vaccine. You can also outline its impact on the workplace. Most importantly, you can put your business on the path to a safer, brighter future.