Great Falls Assisted Living

Great Falls Assisted Living, located near Herndon, announced that all of their employees will be required to have received at least one dose of a vaccine against COVID-19 by Nov. 1, administrators said in a press release Saturday. As of the same date, new employees will be required to be vaccinated against the disease as a condition of employment.

“It is evident that the COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective, and we believe that this is the only possible decision to best protect our residents and associates and the people they love most,” said Frank Wehr, CEO of Great Falls’ parent organization, Artis Senior Living.

Melissa Andrews, president and CEO of LeadingAge Virginia, an association of not-for-profit aging services organizations, echoed that sentiment in a recent interview with the Times-Mirror. “The most important thing we can do is look to science,” she said, as health system administrators help staff understand that vaccinations are “a safe and most importantly, effective tool to fight coronavirus.”

Artis launched an employee education campaign focused on overcoming vaccine hesitancy earlier this year, according to the organization’s press release. Officials said the campaign included email blasts, phone messages, blog posts, webinars and personal discussions aimed at educating its employees that “the benefits outweigh the risks with the vaccine.”

Andrews said that with COVID-19 vaccines having been available for months, health center staff members who have yet to obtain a vaccine are more likely to have decided against obtaining one, rather than being unable to.

“There are still a lot of myths out there about the vaccine, even though we know it’s the most effective tool to protect individuals from this virus,” she said.

Wehr said in the company’s statement that even though Artis has considered input from facility residents, employees and their families, allowing vaccination against COVID-19 to remain voluntary for staff members became untenable. “While we would have preferred to continue a voluntary process, our commitment to safety outweighs the concerns with imposing this [vaccination] requirement,” he said.

Artis operates 23 assisted living communities that specialize in caring for residents with dementia, Alzheimer’s and other memory loss diseases, according to the statement.

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