Brookdale Senior Living, a major operator of assisted living and skilled care facilities in the United States, will require its employees to be vaccinated against Covid, CEO Cindy Baier told CNBC on Friday.
The move is taking place as the highly transmissible Delta variant is causing an increase in coronavirus cases in the country, including in nursing homes. Between July 25 and August 1, coronavirus cases among nursing home residents rose 38%, although levels remain well below previous highs, according to the CDC.
Vaccines provide immune protection to vulnerable residents that was not provided in earlier stages of the pandemic, when long-term care facilities were epicentres for devastating outbreaks. At Brookdale Senior Living’s facilities, which are located in 41 states, 93% of residents are vaccinated, Baier told CNBC.
“Given the widespread access of the vaccine, we are in a much better position to deal with the pandemic,” she said in an interview with the “Power Lunch”.
Still, the surge in coronavirus infection rates across the country puts nursing home residents at risk, many of whom are older and suffer from conditions that make Covid more dangerous to them. Rising vaccination rates among staff coming and going to the facility can play a crucial role in trying to limit the likelihood of an outbreak.
Covid vaccinations have not only been shown to be effective at reducing the risk of developing serious illness or death from the disease, but studies suggest that they can also provide protection against infection.
“We want [have] every Brookdale employee we can vaccinate. Although our efforts have been going on for several months and our vaccination rates are increasing, we would like them to be even higher, “said Baier.” That is why we have chosen a vaccine requirement with limited exemptions.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 82% of nursing home residents in the US were fully vaccinated against the coronavirus by the end of July. However, the vaccination rates for health workers are lower at around 59%. Overall, 49.9% of the US population is fully vaccinated, while 58.2% received at least one vaccination, according to the CDC.
Earlier this week, Genesis Healthcare, another major U.S. nursing home operator, announced that workers must be given the Covid vaccine in order to stay employed. Outside of long-term care, a number of other big companies recently rolled out stricter vaccination policies for employees, including United Airlines on Friday.
The measures are seen as a shock to the country’s vaccination rate, which had slowed significantly since the spring and prompted U.S. health officials to step up efforts to convince hesitant Americans to get the Covid vaccinations.
Several southern states with low vaccination rates have seen increases in shots administered recently as the spread of the Covid Delta variant increased, according to a CNBC analysis of CDC data. In Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama and Arkansas, the weekly average of the first daily doses reported has more than doubled since early July.