PEABODY, Mass. — As companies, universities and even the U.S. military wrestle with what to do about requiring COVID-19 vaccines, one Massachusetts nursing home and assisted living provider is requiring all their employees at their six facilities to be vaccinated as part of their employment.
“As a private employer we have different mandates we’re allowed to issue, including the flu vaccine, this is certainly something we’re allowed to do legally, so long as we have exemptions for people who have sincerely held religious beliefs or medical contraindications,” said Legacy Lifecare President and CEO Adam Berman.
Berman said about 85% of their approximately 1,800 employees are already fully vaccinated.
The mandate won’t go into effect until the FDA grants full, final approval for at least one of the COVID-19 vaccines.
“There are many employees who I’ve personally spoken with who have said that they’re waiting for that approval before they really feel comfortable. So that’s a big part of it,” Berman said.
“One of the toughest things was my mother’s health,” said Irene Kastrinakis, whose 95-year-old mother is in Legacy Lifecare’s Peabody facility.
Kastrinakis supports the vaccine requirement even though she acknowledges it may be a difficult decision for some.
“I know it’s easy for me to say but they have a choice of jobs outside this industry where they’re not required to have the vaccine, where the residents here have no other choice,” she said.
Because of a labor shortage in the industry, Berman says other nursing homes may have been hesitant to enact similar vaccine requirements. But based on what he’s heard from other companies, he believes it’s only a matter of time until this mandate becomes industry-wide.
“We don’t have any confirmation of this but we do hope and expect that there will be a healthcare-wide mandate at some point, in which case, you know, the choice that people have to make is not whether they want to work for us but do they want to remain in healthcare,” he said.
There’s no timeline on when the FDA could potentially grant full approval of a COVID-19 vaccine.
On Sunday’s “ABC’s This Week,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said there’s no doubt in his mind these vaccines will get full approval.