New Jersey must be bolder. All nursing home workers should be vaccinated. | Opinion

Published: Sep. 15, 2021

By Evelyn Liebman

Evelyn Liebman of AARP New Jersey says the key to preventing avoidable COVID-19 cases and deaths is to increase vaccinations – without a testing opt-out – and to do it now.
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The numbers are frightening. In less than three weeks, 30 more residents in New Jersey long-term care facilities have tragically died from COVID-19. Staff and resident cases have jumped more than 40%, and the number of long-term care facilities with active COVID-19 outbreaks has jumped nearly 30% during the same period, according to the NJ Department of Health’s Long-Term Care Dashboard.

The deaths in our long-term care system are a state and national tragedy. We cannot fail our loved ones again.

While a step in the right direction, Gov. Phil Murphy’s August 6, 2021 Executive Order requiring that all workers in certain state and private health care facilities and high-risk congregate settings be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or be subject to testing at minimum one to two times per week simply does not go far enough to protect our most vulnerable from the alarming spread of this deadly disease.

An overwhelming percentage of long-term care facilities — more than 90% — still do not have all staff vaccinated. This low level of staff vaccinations creates an unacceptable level of risk, since the virus spreads so easily in these environments. Regular testing is no substitute for the vaccine and cannot slow the spread of Delta and other variants.

Without bolder action, too many of our most vulnerable residents remain in danger of serious disease and death. This is why AARP is calling on all long-term care providers, in New Jersey and across the country, to require vaccinations for staff, volunteers, residents and visitors.

The key to preventing avoidable COVID-19 cases and deaths is to increase vaccinations – without a testing opt-out – and to do it now. The COVID-19 vaccines were closely scrutinized in clinical trials before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized them for safe public use. Staff, residents and visitors with concerns about vaccine safety and the effect on their health should consult their health care provider.

Preventable problems should not be repeated. Long-term care providers, including nursing homes, home care staffing agencies, and assisted living facilities, must ensure all residents, staff and visitors are vaccinated, including providing vaccines to newly admitted long-term care residents.

We are encouraged by the dozens of other healthcare professional groups, including the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Nursing Association (ANA), also calling for all long-term care workers to be vaccinated to protect the health and well-being of patients.

Vaccines save lives. We must not let New Jersey return to the darkest days of this pandemic. The time is now to do everything we can to protect the loved ones who need our help the most.

Evelyn Liebman is the advocacy director for AARP New Jersey.

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published this page in News and Politics 2021-09-16 02:53:05 -0700