AARP of Iowa urging nursing homes to require COVID-19 vaccine for all staff

AARP of Iowa urging nursing homes to require COVID-19 vaccine for all staff

OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) – In a rare move, Iowa’s AARP is calling on all nursing homes to require staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

They are sounding the alarm as over three-quarters of the state’s assisted care facilities are not meeting the goal for vaccinated staff.

“We know that we just can’t afford another year like we had last year in Iowa nursing homes. It was a tragedy,” said Brad Anderson, State Director of AARP Iowa.

For most of 2020, the elderly population in assisted living facilities was isolated from family and friends as COVID-19 spread across the nation. The virus raged through nursing homes in Iowa, leaving more than 2,300 residents and staff in Iowa facilities dead.

Now there’s concern the facilities might have to close their doors again.

“We also want to avoid another year of lockdowns and social isolation and we understand that the key to avoiding what happened last year in Iowa’s nursing homes are vaccinating residents and staff,” said Anderson.

The industry goal is to have 75% of staff vaccinated. But according to the AARP, only 22% of Iowa’s nursing homes have met that benchmark.

It’s why the organization believes it’s time to make the shot mandatory for staff.

“We need to do better. The time is now with the delta variant raging across the country and we know that the next month is going to get worse…not better.”

We spoke with the Iowa Health Care Association. They represent numerous organizations, including nursing home staff across the state of Iowa.

They say they aren’t pushing for that requirement but instead are working on continuing education.

“What we are also learning about COVID is there is not just one blunt force tool you can use to fight this virus and it really takes all the tools in the toolbox to fight it and education is one of the very important tools,” said Lori Ristau, Iowa Health Care Association.

With the delta variant surging, the AARP says waiting to be vaccinated is not an option.

“Just knowing what we know and what we’ve seen with the delta variant and using common sense, we know the time is right to step up,” said Anderson.

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