Wisconsin Health Care Association opposes vaccine mandates for nursing home employees

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The city of Milwaukee is already planning for the rollout of a third booster shot of the Covid-19 vaccine for the general public. Immunocompromised people are already eligible for a third shot, and now the country’s top medical experts say everyone should get it.

At its peak this spring, the Wisconsin Center vaccinated as many as 2,000 people every day before the walk-in site was closed. Now city leaders are already discussing if it will be needed again for booster shots, and if so, how to do it efficiently.

President Biden said Wednesday, "This is no time to let our guard down." New federal guidance recommends a single booster shot eight months after a second dose. The Biden administration will begin offering the boosters the week of Sept. 20.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett says the city is preparing the Wisconsin Center to administer booster shots. "We want to make sure we have the capacity and will have the capacity when the kickoff date comes."

He acknowledged there is still a sizeable segment of the population that does not want the vaccine, but added, "we also know there's a significant amount of people who are chomping at the bit to get vaccinated. And a lot of people who will want to get that booster."

So far, the boosters are only approved for the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, and health experts say the eight-month wait is important. Dr. Nasia Safdar is the medical director of infection control for UW Health. She says, "Getting it after is the right time, when that vaccine immunity is waning. So that you can get sort of a fresh start as far as bolstering the immune system."

Also Wednesday, President Biden announced, "I'm announcing a new step. If you work in a nursing home and serve people on Medicare or Medicaid, you will also be required to get vaccinated."

Now nursing homes must have a fully-vaccinated staff in order to get federal funding. Rick Abrams of the Wisconsin Health Care Association says the organization strongly supports all personnel getting vaccinated. But he says the mandate could push away the 40% of statewide employees who are not vaccinated. "And therefore, we're concerned they are going to exit the long-term care facilities."

Abrams would prefer to roll back the mandate, saying, "For anyone who thinks a federal mandate is going to magically get us close to 100%, I would respectfully disagree."

The Biden administration will deliver booster shots directly to people living in long-term care facilities.

And federal health officials expect the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will also require a booster shot, but more data is expected in the coming weeks.

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