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Staff Shortages Cause Mixed Reactions To President Biden's Vaccine Mandate For Nursing Home Employees

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- There are mixed reviews after President Joe Biden announced that nursing homes have to require their employees to be vaccinated in order to continue receiving Medicare and Medicaid funding on Thursday.

Unvaccinated employees in nursing homes can trigger COVID outbreaks, potentially jeopardizing at-risk residents, but now they'll be facing new pressure to get the shot.

There is growing pressure to get nursing home staff vaccinated, as 38% are not.

"I'm using the power of the federal government," Biden said. "These steps are all about keeping people safe."

The president announced a new mandate requiring nursing home staff to get vaccinated to receive federal funding.

It's a move Jennifer Moore supports, her husband is in a long-term care facility.

"I wasn't able to see him for months on end," Moore said.

The facility closes to visitors when there are COVID cases, mainly among staff.

"Even if my husband is protected because he's vaccinated they're impacting an essential part of his care, which is to be connected with his family," Moore said.

In Pennsylvania, the health department says 15,768 nursing home employees have had COVID-19.

"We know that transmission of COVID from health care workers has been a major problem," Acting Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole said.

Bettigole says less than 50% of the staff are vaccinated in more than a dozen long-term care facilities in Philadelphia.

She leaves a blunt message for those employees.

"If you're more committed to not getting the vaccine than to the safety of your patients, it's time to do something else, health care is not for you," Bettigole said.

There is pushback from the industry struggling with staff shortages.

"Focusing only on nursing homes will cause vaccine-hesitant workers to flee to other health care providers and leave many centers without adequate staff to care for residents. It will make an already difficult workforce shortage even worse," the American Healthcare Association said in a statement.

Some long-term care facilities already have vaccine mandates, but many don't because the staffing issues are so serious.

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