John O’Connor

Following some miraculous breakthroughs, it looks like we may soon have a COVID-19 vaccine. Some experts are even predicting en masse immunizations by late December.

That reality can’t happen soon enough for long-term care, which has basically been at Ground Zero of the pandemic. Residents in this field’s facilities may represent less than 1% of the nation’s overall population. But they are accounting for about 40% of the COVID-19-related deaths that have been reported.

So at least workers will soon be universally inoculated, right? Not necessarily. What’s more likely is that a significant number will not.

To be clear, you as an employer can mandate vaccination requirements. But that may not be such a great idea. Already, federal protections could allow exceptions. For example, workarounds might be required for workers with religious objections or underlying medical conditions.

Then there’s this: A mandatory vaccination requirement could open your facility up to potential workers’ compensation claims, should any workers experience adverse reactions.

And let’s not forget that inoculations are not loved by all. A Gallup Poll released last week found that barely half of the surveyed adults (58%) were willing to be vaccinated. That’s up 8% from September, but many naysayers remain. I’m no expert on employee relations, but it seems to me that requiring 40% of your team to do something they oppose might not be the world’s greatest morale builder.

As a practical matter, you may find it best to recommend rather than require COVID-19 vaccinations. Otherwise, it just might be your organization that ends up dealing with some very harmful side effects.

John O’Connor is Editorial Director for McKnight’s