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News about coronavirus in Florida and around the world is constantly emerging. It's hard to stay on top of it all but Health News Florida can help. Our responsibility is to keep you informed, and to help discern what’s important for your family as you make what could be life-saving decisions.

Assisted Living Company Requires Staff To Get Vaccinated For COVID

Thomas Hansler, 54, receives a COVID-19 vaccination from Yaquelin De La Cruz at the Research Centers of America in Hollywood, Florida.
Chandan Khanna
AFP via Getty Images
Thomas Hansler, 54, receives a COVID-19 vaccination from Yaquelin De La Cruz at the Research Centers of America in Hollywood, Florida.

Atria, a Kentucky-based operator with 10 facilities in Florida, wants its 10,000 employees nationwide to receive the shots.

Infectious disease experts say the U.S. needs to vaccinate 75 to 85% of the public to reach the early stages of herd immunity, so Atria, a Kentucky-based company, has decided to require its roughly 10,000 staff members to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Atria, a national assisted living and nursing home operator, lists 10 Florida facilities, in Lady Lake, Spring Hill, Fort Myers, Jupiter, Fort Lauderdale, Lake Worth, Sanford, Jacksonville, and two in Hudson.

"We have a privilege," said John Moore, Atria’s CEO. He says he got his second dose of the vaccine this week. "We’ve been given priority access to the vaccine and I believe we have somewhat of an obligation not to waste that opportunity."

Moore described the company's decision not as a perfect answer to get the most people in the U.S. vaccinated as possible but in "making it so that Atria residents live in a vaccinated environment and Atria staff work in a vaccinated environment. It just seems like the right answer for us."

Atria is requiring staff to get vaccinated by May 1 at CVS clinics on its properties. New hires must sign a vaccination consent form.

Dale Ewart, the executive vice president of the Florida division of the 11-99 SEIU — which represents nursing home workers — said the union does urge all of its members to get vaccinated, because the damage caused to health, lives and society outweighs the potential side effects of the vaccine. However, he disagrees with Atria's decision.

"Forcing a decision on them rather than having conversations and providing information is not a good way to treat people with respect but it’s also not a good way to get compliance," said Ewart, pointing out that hesitancy is not about being anti-vaccines but about having valid concerns. "I believe as we see more people get vaccinated, as we witness first-hand that the side effects are mild and short lived, if at all, that more and more people will be comfortable and get the vaccination."

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has released guidance allowing employers to require COVID-19 vaccinations, though it recommends exceptions for employees with disabilities.
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Verónica Zaragovia