More than three-quarters of people living in long-term care facilities had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 immunization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed on Wednesday.
However, when it came to nurses, administrators and others working at centers who were offered the jab, just a little more than one-third had received it.
The findings confirm anecdotal reports of nursing home staff members turning down vaccines and feeling they are being treated as ‘guinea pigs.’
Researchers say more outreach efforts are needed to ensure this vulnerable population that the shot is both safe and effective.
Nursing home residents and staff members are among those at the highest risk for coronavirus infection due to living and working in congregate settings.
What’s more, residents are also at heightened risk due to their ages and propensity to have underlying medical conditions.
Because of this, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended in December 2020 that residents and staff be included in the very first phase of vaccination in the U.S.
The federal government also signed a partnership with CVS and Walgreens to send pharmacists to vaccinate nursing home residents and workers.
For the analysis, published as part of the CDC’s weekly Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the team used data from the National Healthcare Safety Network and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
A total of 11,460 skilled nursing facilities reported at least one vaccination clinic between December 18, 2020 and January 17, 2021.
Data showed that a median of 77.8 precent of residents received at least one vaccine dose over the one-month period.
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About half of the facilities – 48 percent – had vaccinated at least 60 percent of all their residents.
By comparison, a median of 37.5 percent of staff members per facility received at least one dose.
More than half of nursing homes, had vaccinated less than 40 percent of employees 30 days into the program.
What’s more, by mid-January, just 18.5 percent of facilities had vaccinated all residents and only 4.8 percent had vaccinated all staff members
Rates also varied by state, the report revealed.
Only 13 states – Colorado, Connecticut, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin – immunized at least 80 percent of residents.
By comparison, no state had done so for staff. Just one state, New Hampshire, vaccinated 60 percent of all nursing home workers.
Low vaccination rates among workers in nursing homes have been reported for other inoculations such as the flu shot.
According to a survey conducted in October 2020, 37 percent of nurses said they were not confident a COVID-19 vaccine would be safe and effective.
Some reasons for hesitancy included beliefs that the vaccine was developed too quickly and that there wasn’t enough information available about vaccine safety.
‘You just don’t know what the effects are and that’s scary,’ Maryland-based registered nurse Amelia Foster told ABC 10.
‘No one wants to be a guinea pig. Every medication out there has its risks and side effects. Not everyone is affected, but it could possibly make your immune system go haywire and that’s scary.’
The team says public health experts need to spend more time getting information to staff members about the safety and efficacy of vaccines.
‘The lower percentage of staff members vaccinated raises concern about low coverage among a population at high risk for occupational exposure to SARS-CoV-2,’ the authors wrote.
‘Continued development and implementation of focused communication and outreach strategies are needed to improve vaccination coverage among staff members in [nursing homes] and other long-term care settings.’