HOUSTON - During a White House address, President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that his administration will now require all nursing home workers to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Those that don’t comply, could lose out on federal Medicare and Medicaid funding.
"If you visit, live, or work in a nursing home, you should not be at a high risk of contracting COVID from unvaccinated employees," said Biden.
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"Studies show highly vaccinated nursing homes staff is associated with at least 30% less COVID-19 cases among long-term care residents," Biden continued.
According to data from the CDC, nationally, 60% of nursing home staff are vaccinated.
Qiana James is the founder and CEO of Friendly Faces Senior Care, a local caregiver agency that helps services dozens of Houston-area nursing homes.
With the new vaccine mandate, James expects pushback and worries how many more nurses she could lose for good.
"This is an industry where it was already a nationwide caregiver shortage, and it became astronomical once COVID happened. We expect that the mandates could push people out of the industry altogether," James said.
At the beginning of the pandemic, James estimates she lost one-third of her caregiving staff.
A year and a half later, demand for healthcare professionals has skyrocketed and a continued shortage could be detrimental.
James encourages those who remain vaccine-hesitant to reconsider their decision.
"More and more employers will be requiring this. So the message that we're sending out to our staff is they need to do their research. Think seriously about this because their decision on whether to get vaccinated could affect their ability to work, whether it's here with us, or even with another employer," James said.
The new mandate could take effect as soon as next month.