Close-up image of vaccination being given in upper arm of older individual
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Getting a flu shot could soon be a condition of employment for some nursing home providers if an effort by Delaware state lawmakers continues to gain steam. 

The state Senate on Tuesday approved a measure (SB 253) that would allow nursing homes and assisted living facilities to make employment contingent on influenza immunization. 

Under previous state law, providers weren’t allowed to make hiring decisions contingent on staff flu vaccination status and this current measure is an effort to give them more “flexibility.” 

The legislation passed the Senate with no objections and has been sent to the House for committee review. 

Previous data from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that currently about 17 states have flu shot requirements for long-term care workers. Of those states, just four don’t allow workers to decline the flu shot without a specified exemption. 

LeadingAge New Jersey & Delaware in a statement Wednesday said providers should have the tools available to them to keep employees and residents safe in support of the measure. 

“This bill gives providers the flexibility to make hiring decisions contingent on staff influenza vaccination status,” the group told McKnight’s Long-Term Care News. It expects the proposal to pass the House, as well.

The move comes in the wake of employees at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities being mandated to receive COVID-19 vaccinations by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

CMS also has proposed a new measure for skilled nursing facilities that would require them to report flu vaccine coverage among employees.

“[W]e believe the proposed measure has the potential to increase influenza vaccination coverage in SNFs, promote patient safety and increase the transparency of quality of care in the SNF setting,” the agency stated. 

In the 2020-2021 flu season, approximately 66% of healthcare workers in long-term care facilities received a flu vaccination, according to federal data. This compares to 76% of  healthcare personnel overall.

Nursing home residents, meanwhile, had 71% vaccination coverage for the same flu season, CMS data shows. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that the flu has caused between 12,000 and 52,000 deaths annually from 2010 to 2020.It also estimates between 70% and 85% of seasonal flu-related deaths have occurred in people 65 years and older.