Nursing homes, for some reason, are not mandating their workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19. As it turns out, the people who take care of our loved ones, often at close quarters, don’t seem too keen on doing it voluntarily, either.

For example, a cluster of COVID-19 cases at the Grand Rehabilitation and Nursing at Barnwell has expanded, yet no staff member who has tested positive has been vaccinated, according to the Columbia County Department of Health. Department Director Jack Mabb said Thursday the number of positive COVID cases at the facility grew to 16 residents and 11 staff members.

Speaking Thursday, Mabb said he feels there should be some obligation for people working with vulnerable older adults in nursing homes to get the vaccination. What is wrong with that?

State Department of Health public information officer Jeffrey Hammond went a step further, saying all medically eligible nursing home residents and staff in the state have been offered a COVID-19 vaccine. Sadly, the results have been spotty.

“We are encouraged that 84 percent of nursing home residents in Columbia County have been vaccinated,” Hammond said Thursday. “While this is very good news, the Grand’s responsibility to vaccinate their residents and staff is not over and now is not the time to let our guard down.”

We know the Grand, in common with many other nursing homes, is having a hard time recruiting local workers and the administration has had to bring in people from other parts of the state, and even out-of-state, to try to maintain staffing at an acceptable level. And the fear is that mandating vaccinations could chill hiring when it is needed most.

Yes, working in a nursing home is a tough job, and we saw first-hand last summer how much tougher it can be as thousands of residents died from COVID-19 complications. There was no vaccine then. But there is now.

The temporary inconvenience of taking the vaccine is nothing when compared to the agonies of COVID-19 experienced in 2020 by nursing home residents. Our strong suggestion: If you’re going to work with a vulnerable population, you should get vaccinated.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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