Ethical and legal debates regarding COVID-19 vaccine mandates continue to swirl around the long-term care industry, even as some operators have already decided to require their workers to receive the inoculations. 

At the center of the debate is the fact that current COVID vaccines are all still under  emergency use authorization. While some experts don’t believe providers would face legal troubles for mandating the vaccines under the current EUA, others have suggested that employers must wait until full federal approval is granted to legally compel their use, a recent New York Times report detailed.

Full Food and Drug Administration approval for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines could come by next month and the expectation is that local and state governments will mandate healthcare workers to be vaccinated once that happens, according to Lawrence Gostin, a law professor at Georgetown University. 

“They’d have the right to do that,” he told the news organization. He added that ethically, “it’s entirely justified. People have the right to take chances with their own health, but they absolutely do not have the right to endanger others.”

Operators Atria Senior Living and Juniper Communities are among those that have already decided to mandate vaccinations among workers, despite their still being under EUAs.

“We felt it was the best way to protect people, not just our residents but our team members and their families,” Juniper CEO Lynne Katzmann said. She added that 30 of its about 1,300 workers have “self-terminated” because of the requirement.

American Health Care Association President and CEO Mark Parkinson in December said they want vaccine uptake among long-term staff to be high so operators won’t be forced to answer legal questions about mandates.

“Our hope is that we get widespread acceptance of the vaccine but if we don’t, I assure you our organization, as well as individual operators, will be analyzing whether or not they can mandate the vaccine. We’re just hoping we don’t have to go there,” he said at the time. 

Last week, his group and LeadingAge jointly set a goal of 75% for worker COVID-vaccinations, which are currently under 50%, by June 30.