Nursing home residents have received COVID-19 vaccinations at a higher rate than their caregivers during the first round of vaccinations – a troubling trend for state officials and providers who are expecting additional staff during the second round Will vaccinate.
As of 14 January, a total of 13,965 nursing home staff have received vaccinations, according to data from the state’s Public Health Department.
The number of nursing home residents and workers can fluctuate daily, but by December 31 it is estimated that there were approximately 17,000 people living in nursing homes – that is, 82 percent of residents have received vaccinations so far. State officials and long-term care providers estimate that there are about 26,000 nursing home workers, keeping the vaccination rate barely 50 percent.
Nursing home residents were first vaccinated in the state and country because of the devastating effects the virus has had on that population. In Connecticut, about 70 percent of the state’s COVID-19 deaths occur in long-term care facilities.
That’s when CVS Vacciners showed much fanfare at The Heartwear in West Hartford to administer the first shots for the state’s nursing home residents in mid-December. According to Genesis Health Care spokesman Lori Meyer, when the photo opportunities ran out, only half of the employees were vaccinated that day.
In other facilities the numbers that were to be vaccinated were not much better. For example, at Apple Rehab in Middletown, only 40 percent of employees were vaccinated in the first round, and at Canton’s Cherry Brook Senior Center, about 50 percent took the vaccine, facility officials said.
Providers and officials with the state’s largest health care workers’ union, District 1199 SEIU, attributed the reluctance to various issues – from uncertainty about women’s long-term fertility issues to vaccine disadvantages to minority workers from the health care system Uncertainty about One who has discriminated against people of color.
Nursing home provider Paul Liistro, who owns two facilities in Manchester and Vernon, said the low percentage of staff receiving shots makes it difficult to gain herd immunity until workers are caught vaccinating. But now the plan has become dangerous with new forms of the virus spreading.
“So, what is going to happen now is in a few weeks [10 days after administration of the second dose]Residents will be increasingly protected, ”Listro said. “But employees, on the other hand, will continue to shed and spread the virus … to each other.”
To avoid that, DPH officials, providers and unions are trying to reach out to employees and educate them to vaccinate.
At Apple’s rehabilitation centers, medical directors made zoom calls with workers and met with them in person to discuss their concerns, Apple vice president Karen Donforio said. They have attempted to educate them on the side effects and efficacy of vaccines.
Eight additional staff members received the first dose last week at Apple’s Middletown facility when the CVS Vaccinator returned for the second time. Donforio said that about 50 percent of the employees there have now been vaccinated.
Genesis has performed even better at its West Hartford facility, as about 70 percent of its employees are now vaccinated after the second round.
“Some staff members waited until the second clinic because they wanted to see how their teammates responded to the vaccine in round one. They just didn’t want to go first, “Genesis Chief Medical Officer Dr. Richard Fifer said.
“The reservoir clinic was one of the first in the country. Many wanted to learn more before making a decision, and our physicians and medical professionals have spoken personally with staff to answer any questions.
At Cherry Brook in Canton, about 20 additional staff members were vaccinated in the second round, according to Athena’s marketing director Timothy Brown, its percentage reached about 65 percent.
Brown said many of the new vaccinated employees did so after seeing “how the guinea pigs had done”.
“Now we have real evidence of people who took the vaccine for the first time and are fine, and that’s the biggest incentive for people,” Brown said.
At a recent press conference, state chief operating officer Josh Gable said officials were disappointed to see who has been vaccinated in nursing homes by CVS and Walgren personnel.
Both companies were hired by federal authorities to vaccinate all nursing home residents and employees across the country. The state had little to do with the process other than distributing the vaccine.
“We are hoping to break away from CVS and Walgren through the federal system. We do not yet have that, ”said Gable, adding that the total number of all states is still.
Geble said that the state believes that 40% to 50% of the nursing home staff were vaccinated for the first time and increased in the second round.
Even with the increase, the number of residents’ participation in the program is still very low. Officials estimate that more than 90 percent of people living in nursing homes will be vaccinated until three rounds of shots are completed.
They acknowledge that the percentage of employees without mandating a vaccine would not achieve that high, which many providers are reluctant to do because they already have a staff shortage and cannot afford to leave people.
He said, ‘We are happy to see that on some other occasions the employees have worked. We expect it to climb a little more, but it still does not equal that population, ”said David Skoczulak, vice president of business development for the Eyecare Health Network, which owns 11 nursing homes in Connecticut.
ICare leaders are debating what procedures non-active workers should follow in the long term. The company is also considering whether to make the vaccine necessary for its employees.
“We have been very careful not to dismiss the idea of it being mandatory. Obviously there has to be something that is legally available to us, ”said Skoczulak. “But if it were, we would not dismiss it. We want to put everything on the table. “
iCare also weighs in on how to deploy employees based on whether they have been vaccinated or not.
“If a staff member does not have the vaccine, he should work in which unit and in what capacity using PPE?” Skoczulek said. “We expect that if you’re not vaccinated, it’s going to be a more rigorously regulated environment with more PPE. Obviously, the ideal scenario would be higher levels of vaccination.”