Besides a considerable amount of media coverage, there has been much discussion among senior service organizations across the U.S. regarding mandating COVID vaccines for our employees.
While we have considered this option since we began making vaccines available to residents and staff, let us update you as to where we are at today with our COVID vaccine status.
Back in January, we enacted a “Vaccine Champion” campaign to encourage all of our staff to get the vaccine. JAA staff stepped up admirably and today we have 87 percent of our staff fully vaccinated. Among residents, even better, as 99.9 percent of all residents have taken the vaccine. In comparison, JAA far exceeds the rate of vaccines in long-term care both in Pennsylvania (59 percent staff, 83 percent residents) and nationally (61 percent staff, 80 percent residents).
We have continued to test our unvaccinated staff. Due to the rise in the community spread with the Delta variant, every week we test all staff, both vaccinated and unvaccinated.
Our goal is to have 100 percent of eligible staff vaccinated. We continue of provide ongoing (mandatory) education sessions for the unvaccinated, encouraging them in both group and one-on-one sessions to get the vaccine. We surveyed those who have been reticent and learned reasons why many are not willing to do so, many out of fear, some for medical reasons, and some for religious reasons. Social media and the spread of false information about the vaccine has not helped our cause. Still, we have been successful in getting more than half of those who initially did not want the vaccine to agree to have the vaccine shots. These individuals are now counted among our vaccine champions and, for this, we are most grateful.
For those who are still weighing their options, we have a disclosure form which any unvaccinated staff member must sign acknowledging the risk to themselves, their families, and our residents by not getting vaccinated.
And beginning on September 30, we will host several booster clinics with Giant Eagle to adminsiter Pfizer booster shots to all staff who got their first shots in January and February. We encourage the remaining staff who have not yet begun the vaccine process to take this opportunity to get their first vaccines during these cllnics.
As a faith-based non-profit organization, JAA respects the choices and beliefs of our staff, especially during these extremely difficult and challenging times. JAA staff have proven repeatedly that they are truly heroes in this fight against this deadly coronavirus.
We believe in education, understanding the roadblocks, and addressing them as the path to full staff compliance. Giving this level of support has been successful, and trusting that our staff will make the right choice for them is our objective. Of course, our ultimate goal is keeping our residents, their families, each other, and our own families safe.
We constantly enforce the need to remain cautious, wearing proper PPE, mandating facemasks among all staff and the combination of masks and full-face shields among the unvaccinated. Other protocols such as hand washing, social distancing, monitoring staff temperatures and symptoms at the beginning and end of each shift, and cleaning high touch areas remain in effect.
We continue to stay informed of any changes regarding state and federal vaccine mandates. Should vaccine requirements become mandatory, we are prepared to enact and enforce them immediately.
In the meantime, we will continue to monitor, test, and stay vigilant during this lingering battle. We have always had, and continue to have, the very best interests of our residents at heart.