Nearly 30% of nursing home and assisted living employees are still unvaccinated

Posted at 6:09 PM, Aug 06, 2021

DENVER — While the clock ticks for many public and private sector employees to get their COVID-19 vaccine in order to keep their job in Colorado, nursing homes and assisted living care facilities have a clearer picture on which employees aren't getting the vaccine.

According to Doug Farmer, the president and CEO of the Colorado Health Care Association, nearly 30% of employees in those facilities have opted out of the vaccine thus far for various reasons.

"About half of them are saying they are still uncertain about the vaccine," Farmer said. "They are still uncertain about the timing of how it was developed, they are uncertain about potential side effects both now and in the longer term. The other half are really more an ideologically opposition to vaccines or to the government telling them what to do."

If those individuals work in Denver, they have until the end of September to roll up their sleeve or get their resumes ready for another job, according to a vaccine mandate announced by the city on Monday. Many hospitals across the state have also issued a mandate with their own deadlines.

For others who oppose the vaccine due to health-related issues or religious beliefs, state law will give them a pass.

The Catholic Bishops of Colorado took notice in a letter published Friday.

"We are pleased to see that in the case of the most recent Denver vaccine mandate, there is accommodation for sincerely held religious beliefs," the letter stated.

The letter went on to say that the church remains "vigilant when any bureaucracy seeks to impose uniform and sweeping requirements on a group of people in areas of personal conscience."

"Throughout history, human rights violations and a loss of respect for each person’s God-given dignity often begin with government mandates that fail to respect the freedom of conscience," the letter said.

Others, as Farmer pointed out, also had a similar point of view outside of religion, who will have to make the decision come Sept. 30 — get vaccinated or find another job.

"Our real concern right now is just that staffing is just very, very difficult in the current environment. So anything that would cause us to lose employees would be a big concern for us," Farmer said while addressing the idea of a statewide vaccine mandate.

"We think that if the state were going to choose to say that 'as a matter of public health, we're going to mandate the vaccine for all healthcare provider types,' then it wouldn't have such a severe impact on us. If it were aimed directly only at residential care facilities for instance, we're really concerned that that would just allow those people who choose not to get vaccinated to move to another sector of healthcare."

Meanwhile, CHCA continues to encourage all of their represented facilities to continue encouraging employees to get vaccinated.

By Sept. 30, their workforce may be a little smaller.