The Missouri Health Care Association came out strongly against the federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate during a subcommittee hearing, citing concerns that a large chunk of workers could be lost due to the regulation. 

It is a scenario that is expected to play out in various other statehouses across the country as the heat over mandates intensifies.

“We fully, 100% support vaccinations in nursing homes and everyone in nursing homes,” Nikki Strong, executive director of Missouri Health Care Association, told state lawmakers on Tuesday as they discussed the federal mandate. 

“The reality of the situation in many states, and Missouri is no different — that the vaccine hesitancy across the state, especially among younger populations and our staff — is something that we have not been able to overcome,” she added. “For that reason, we don’t believe that a straightforward mandate is the appropriate way to achieve full vaccination in our facilities.” 

The association’s stance comes after President Joe Biden’s administration on Thursday expanded its federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate to all healthcare settings — instead of singling out nursing homes. 

That move earned immediate praise from the American Health Care Association. But not because it fully supports mandates; it just wants others to be subject to them, too, if nursing homes are.

“This will help prevent unvaccinated nursing home staff from looking for new lines of work, alleviating some of the staffing challenges too many long term care facilities are currently facing,” AHCA President and CEO Mark Parkinson said. “Nearly 4,000 providers expressed their concerns about a federal mandate only for nursing home staff, and we appreciate the Administration listening to those concerns and applying this policy more broadly.” 

The Missouri chapter said its stance comes after a survey among its members regarding the impact a mandate would have on employment levels, the Columbia Missourian reported.

The survey found that 32% of respondents said they would lose 24% or less of their staff, while 30% believed they would lose between 25% and 49%, while yet others said more than 50% would leave.

“We have got to have healthcare workers, and we are dangling by a thread right now,” Strong said.