HCN News & Notes

State to Mandate Vaccination of Staff in Skilled-nursing Facilities

BOSTON — The Baker-Polito administration announced plans to implement a vaccine mandate for long-term-care (LTC) staff to strengthen infection control and protect vulnerable residents. COVID-19 vaccination is the most effective method for preventing infection and serious illness from the virus, and staff at long-term-care facilities and other healthcare providers serving vulnerable populations are critical in efforts to protect older residents.

There are 378 skilled-nursing facilities (level I-III), as well as two Soldiers’ Homes, in Massachusetts. As of Aug. 2, 155 facilities had fewer than 75% of their staff fully vaccinated.

Therefore, skilled-nursing facilities (level I-III) and the two Soldiers’ Homes will be required to ensure all personnel are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. A public-health order will be issued for non-state-operated skilled-nursing facilities, and emergency regulations will be filed for the two state-operated soldiers’ homes.

Personnel include all individuals employed directly or by contract with the long-term-care provider. All unvaccinated personnel are to receive a first dose of a two-dose series by Sept. 1 and be fully vaccinated by Oct. 10. To ensure compliance, beginning Oct. 10, the Department of Public Health (DPH) will enforce this mandate for provider-operated skilled-nursing homes.

The requirement will provide exemptions for those with medical restrictions or sincerely held religious beliefs that prevent them from receiving vaccination.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Commonwealth has taken significant steps to support nursing-facility residents and staff, including providing more than $260 million in state funding, staffing supports, and providing more than 2.8 million pieces of personal protective equipment, on top of $180 million in federal funding. In addition, the state has increased facility accountability through regular infection-control surveys and other compliance audits and imposing admission freezes. The latest actions reinforce the state’s commitment to ensuring the safety of these residents.