President Joe Biden announced on Wednesday that he is requiring all nursing home staff to be vaccinated for their facilities to continue receiving Medicare and Medicaid funding. A mandate will soon be issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services that could be enforced as soon as September.

In a speech delivered at the White House, Biden said, “Now, if you visit, live or work at a nursing home, you should not be at a high risk of contracting Covid from unvaccinated employees. While I’m mindful that my authority at the federal level is limited, I’m going to continue to look for ways to keep people safe and increase vaccination rates.”

The new regulation is justified by federal data revealing there are hundreds of thousands of nursing home workers who still aren’t vaccinated, despite the fact that over 130,000 COVID-19 deaths are linked to nursing homes. While 82 % of residents have been vaccinated, only 60% of nursing home workers are fully vaccinated, troubling numbers given the recent Delta variant surge.

Mark Parkinson, the president and CEO of the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living, worries that by not mandating all health care workers to be vaccinated, this move could prompt vaccine-hesitant workers to seek work elsewhere.

“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,” Parkinson said. “It will make an already difficult workforce shortage even worse.”

Industry groups fear that defunding would engender disastrous effects, as many facilities depend on federal money due to last year’s low occupancy rates.

Katie Smith Sloan, the president and CEO of LeadingAge explained, “Defunding the care providers who continue to fight on the front lines would be a tragic misstep. Without Medicaid and Medicare funding, nursing homes cannot provide the quality care that our nation’s most vulnerable adults need.”

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