The following is an excerpt of an article published in PublicIntegrity.org discussing low vaccination rates among long-term health care workers:
Nationwide, most of the elderly and vulnerable in long-term care facilities have taken the coronavirus vaccine, but many of the staff caring for them have refused it. The federal program responsible for bringing vaccines to the vast majority of nursing homes and similar settings inoculated roughly half of long-term-care workers in the nation, and in some states a much slimmer percentage, as of March 15, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provided to the Center for Public Integrity.
In seven states and the District of Columbia, the program vaccinated less than a third of staff members.
Now the federal program is winding down in the coming days, leaving states and facilities to figure out how to vaccinate the remainder of workers in settings where COVID-19 has already taken a heavy toll.
Though they represent a tiny fraction of the American population, long-term-care residents made up 34% of the nation’s COVID-19 deaths as of March 4, according to the Covid Tracking Project. Low vaccination rates among staff at these facilities mean that workers continue to have greater risk of contracting COVID-19 themselves or passing the virus to their patients, including residents who can’t be inoculated for medical reasons. Low staff uptake can also complicate nursing homes’ attempt to reopen their doors to visitors like Caldwell, who are striving for some sense of normalcy.
“Going into it, we knew it was going to be a problem,” said Ruth Link-Gelles, who led the team at CDC working on the federal initiative that’s now closing up shop, the Federal Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program.
She cited past years’ low vaccination rates among long-term-care workers for diseases such as the flu. “We were disappointed, but I don’t think anyone was shocked to see the low uptake. … There is a stubbornly large portion of the population that really doesn’t want to get vaccinated, and we have a lot of work to do generally and in this community in particular.”
Federal agencies and states have poured resources into a #GetVaccinated educational campaign, hosting listening sessions, live chats and virtual town halls for long-term-care staff to get their questions answered.
In spite of all these efforts, many workers are reluctant to take the shots because they don’t trust information about the vaccines’ safety or they don’t wish to be among the first to take them, experts said.
“There are many reasons to blame nursing homes and the federal government,” said David Grabowski, a professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School who studies long-term care. “We knew this coming in — that this was a group that was not very trusting of leadership and frankly not very trusting of the vaccine so it was going to take some work in terms of building that trust.”
Click on the link below to read the full article: