Nursing-home workers have a vaccine problem

July 28, 2021

Nursing-home residents could be vulnerable to serious infection as many health care workers remain unvaccinated. But even as the White House looks at vaccine requirements for federal employees, lawmakers and experts expressed doubts about the federal government’s ability to help nursing-home workers’ vaccine numbers. In the face of the highly infectious Delta variant, the Biden administration is reportedly planning to require vaccines and testing for federal employees. The Veterans Affairs Department will require all doctors to be vaccinated, President Biden said Monday.

But congressional lawmakers and policy experts aren’t sure if some form of federal requirement on nursing homes would be helpful—or possible. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday that it’s not within the administration’s power to mandate every person in the U.S. to get a vaccine, but can apply such a requirement to federal-government employees. Some experts suggested that monetary incentives or vaccine requirements from employers would be useful tools. Several medical and professional groups  are pressuring health care and long-term-care employers to adopt vaccine requirements. “I think in some of these areas, when you want to increase vaccinations, I’m not sure that congressional action is always the best or most expeditious way to get it done,” said Sen. Bob Casey, who chairs the Special Committee on Aging.