Here we go again. Despite the successful efforts nationwide to vaccinate nursing home residents, infections and deaths are increasing again in senior facilities. The reason? “Lagging vaccination rates among nursing home staff,” according to an Associated Press story in the Star Tribune.
Although nearly 80% nursing home residents are vaccinated, nursing home staff vaccination rates are much lower, about 59% nationwide, according to the story. This more closely matches the rate of vaccinated adults nationwide. The rates vary by state, however, with some states having vaccination rates as low as 40%.
The problem? This poses a danger to the unvaccinated staffers, and it poses a danger to the residents, even those who are vaccinated. Vaccinated older adults may be more vulnerable than younger people, particularly against aggressive COVID variants, such as delta. This raises concerns that “successes in protecting vulnerable elders with vaccines could be in peril,” the story reports.
“Vaccinating workers in nursing homes is a national emergency because the delta variant is a threat even to those already vaccinated,” according to Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, vice dean for public health practice at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Older adults may not respond fully to the vaccine and there’s enormous risk of someone coming in with the virus.”
“Vaccinating workers in nursing homes is a national emergency because the delta variant is a threat even to those already vaccinated.”
David Grabowski, Professor of Health Care Policy at Harvard University, and a Nexus Insights Fellow, said “trust is the core question” among the unvaccinated, especially among low-wage workers who may not have confidence in recommendations from their management. “I think some of this mirrors what we see in the overall population, but among health care workers it is really disconcerting,” Grabowski said.
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