nurse at computer

A national group representing certified nursing assistants said it’s urging CNAs to get vaccinated, but “more must be done” by providers to address those workers’ concerns about shots and overall working conditions to increase uptake among the group. 

“It’s about time for employers, payers, and policy makers to recognize that marginalizing CNAs for so long has its consequences,” said Lori Porter, founder and CEO of the National Association of Health Care Assistants. 

“In this case, those consequences have led to mistrust of those in authority and confusion around what is best for CNAs and for the elders they serve,” Porter added. “Is it any wonder that so many are hesitant about getting vaccinated?”

Porter’s comments came as NAHCA issued a statement Thursday on COVID-19 vaccinations for CNAs, and as pressure mounts on long-term care providers to mandate vaccines for its employees as the delta variant surges across the country. Currently, 60% of nursing home staff nationwide are vaccinated against COVID-19. 

The association said it remains divided on the issue of supporting across-the-board vaccine mandates for all aging services employees after much deliberation and consideration about the disease and the rise of its variants. NAHCA said a significant number of its more than 26,000 members remain hesitant about getting vaccinated for several underlying reasons, including:

  • Insufficient efforts to educate and build confidence in the vaccine among the public, as well as among frontline staff;
  • Confusing and mixed messages from leadership at federal, state, and local government entities;
  • Widespread lack of support throughout the pandemic in the form of PPE and other measures that could have better protected CNAs and the elders they care for;
  • Chronic underfunding and understaffing in nursing homes that sometimes leads to substandard care and difficult and dangerous working conditions; and
  • A long history of poor benefits and pay that in many cases do not amount to a living wage.

“We recognize and respect employers’ rights to require COVID-19 vaccines for its employees, as long as they are implemented in accordance with federal and state laws and adhere to appropriate exemptions for those with medical conditions or religious objections,” NAHCA Board Chair Sherry Perry said in a. statement. 

“However, it is our position that more must be done not only to address CNAs’ concerns about the vaccine, but also to improve the underlying issues that these dedicated frontline care staff have faced for the entirety of their careers,” she added. 

The association said addressing these issues through credible education and open dialogue will lead to CNAs being more willing to get inoculated. 

The group said it supports building confidence in vaccines among CNAs through the creation of educational resources in consultation with thought leaders in the field who are committed to sincere and substantive dialogue with CNAs and research aimed at building vaccine confidence and immunization rates among frontline healthcare staff.