An Ohio skilled nursing and assisted living operator now plans to wait until the COVID-19 vaccinations receive full federal approval before enforcing its inoculation mandate on employees after listening to staff concerns. 

“Our goals and expectations haven’t changed. We want all staff members, with the exception of people with appropriate medical and religious waivers, to be vaccinated,” said Mike Morely, vice president of operations at Continuing Healthcare Solutions. 

“We know it’s the best way to assure safety in this continuing pandemic for the employees we need and value. We also believe that getting our staff vaccinated is part of our moral and ethical duty to protect the safety of the residents who have been entrusted in our care,” he added. 

The operator in late March announced that it was making COVID vaccines mandatory for all its employees across its 27 SNFs and four free-standing assisted living facilities in Ohio. At the time, the mandate required all employees to receive their first-round shots by June 1.

Since then, Morely said the provider has made steady progress in its vaccination rates for staff, which have now reached over 60% companywide. The figured hovered around 40% prior to the requirement. 

The provider has also continued to engage with employees and has made it a priority to listen to their sincere and serious concerns about the vaccines still carrying Emergency Use Authorization designations from the Food and Drug Administration. 

Morely said after listening to the workers’ concerns, the operator will now wait until the FDA fully approves the vaccines before setting a deadline for when staff must receive their first shot. They expect full authorization to come soon. Both Pfizer and Moderna have submitted applications seeking full approval for their COVID-19 vaccines.

“Let’s be clear: We know the vaccines have proven to be safe. They’ve been exhaustively researched, and our staffers who have been vaccinated have experienced only the anticipated soreness and minor side effects,” Morely told McKnight’s Long-Term Care News on Wednesday. 

“That said, our lessons from the pandemic have included listening to one another and being flexible. Given the number of staffers who have told us they still plan to get the vaccine and the EUA concerns, we’re not going to lock in to an arbitrary date for employees to be vaccinated,” he said. 

“In the meantime, we’ll continue to urge employees to get the shot.”