HJNO Mar/Apr 2021

44   MAR / APR 2021 I  HEALTHCARE JOURNAL OF NEW ORLEANS COLUMN  SENIOR HEALTH COVID-19 Vaccinations in the Senior Care Setting: ACROSS the United States, this is the question that plagues leaders in the senior care industry. The impact that COVID-19 has had on senior care and congregate living for older adults has been, in a word, devastating. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), eight out of 10 COVID-19 deaths in the United States have occurred in adults 65 years old or older. Older adults remain at greater risk for requiring hospitalization or dying due to complications related to coronavirus. The risk for severe illness and complications with COVID-19 increases with age, making a person in their 50s at higher risk than someone in their 40s, and someone in their 70s at higher risk than a person in their 50s, and on it goes. The most at-risk seniors are those over the age of 85 where the risk of employees who refuse it now will agree to take it later. Many retirement centers and long-term care operators are not requiring the COVID-19 vaccine to be a condition of employment. However, Lambeth House, a retirement community in Uptown New Orleans, chose a different route. They are one of very few providers in the United States that have mandated the vaccine for its employees. At Lambeth House, the executive team was the first to receive the COVID-19 vac- cine. This was not a bully move from the execs to proceed to the front of the line but rather a request from the organization’s front-line employees to stand witness as the top brass received the vaccine first. For some, it was a sort of “We’ll take it after you take it”challenge — one happilymet head-on hospitalization is 13 times higher than adults aged 18 to 29, and the risk of death is 630 times higher. So, the question becomes, do those of us in the senior care industry have an ethical responsibility to take the vaccine to protect those most vulnerable to the virus? In late January, only 23% of the 4.6 mil- lion doses of vaccine distributed for use in long-term care facilities in the United States had been administered. The reasons for the sluggish rollout varied. They ranged from faulty logistics to hesitancy because the vaccine was too new, to fear of the vac- cine’s side effects, to mistrust in the gov- ernment’s ability to ensure its safety. Given the public’s reluctance to take the vaccine, some long-term care facilities have chosen to give employees the option, hoping that Given the wreckage that coronavirus has had on seniors, do healthcare workers in aging services have a moral obligation to get the COVID-19 vaccine? A MORAL OBLIGATION OR NOT?