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Most Nursing Home Staff Nationally Shunning COVID-19 Vaccine

The findings confirm concerns medical professionals expressed in December and illustrate much more work needs to be done to alleviate fears driving down participation, said Dr. Radhika Gharpure, the study's lead author.

by Terrie Morgan-Besecker, The Times-Tribune, Scranton, Pa. / February 4, 2021
TNS
(TNS) - About 78% of nursing home residents nationwide agreed to take the COVID-19 vaccine but staff members were less receptive, with just 37.5% participating, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
 
The findings confirm concerns medical professionals expressed since the launch of the wide scale vaccination program in December and illustrate much more work needs to be done to alleviate fears driving down the participation rates, said Dr. Radhika Gharpure, the study's lead author.
 
"The low vaccination coverage among the health care personnel in these facilities is concerning," Gharpure said in an email. "LTCF staff make up more than one-fifth of the health care workforce and care for people who are medically fragile and at high risk of serious COVID-19 complications ... Ensuring (they) have access to COVID-19 vaccination — and confidence in the safety and effectiveness of these vaccines — is a public health priority."
 
The findings are based on the CDC's survey of 11,460 nursing homes that administered the first dose of the vaccine between Dec. 18, 2020 to Jan. 17, 2021. Gharpure noted the study has limitations because it only counted persons vaccinated at the homes. Some staff may have chosen to be vaccinated elsewhere.
 
The Pennsylvania Department of Health is not tracking the percentage of staff that decline the vaccine, said spokesman Barry Ciccocioppo.
 
Locally, officials at three of the 17 Lackawanna County nursing homes that responded to a request for information report participation rates were higher than the national average.
 
At the Gino J. Merli Veterans Center in Scranton, 97% of residents and 74% of staff took part in its first vaccine clinic, said Joseph Butera, a spokesman for the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.
 
Genesis Healthcare reported the following participation rates for homes it operates in Lackawanna County: Abington Manor, Clarks Summit, 93% residents, 70% staff; and Linwood Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Scranton, 95% residents, 56% staff.
 
Andrew Benson, a spokesman for Guardian Healthcare Taylor in Taylor, formerly known as Riverside Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center, said the "vast majority" of residents and staff were vaccinated, but did not provide exact figures. Eric Yashinski, administrator at Adventura and Creekside in Carbondale also did not provide figures but said he was "very happy" with the participation rate.
 
The CDC study attributes the low staff participation rate to several factors, including concerns about potential side effects and skepticism over the safety of the vaccine, which was approved under an emergency authorization.
 
Zach Shamberg, president of the Pennsylvania Health Care Association, a trade group for long term care operators, said false information on the Internet also has been a deterrent, including claims the vaccine can cause infertility.
 
"They are seeing information spread on Facebook with regard to infertility. Even though it's been disproved in clinical trials, it's very pervasive and is causing a lot of people to wait," Shamberg said.
 
Gharpure said the CDC is working with a variety of health care associations to beef up educational efforts.
 
"It's clear that we must work harder to increase access, build vaccine confidence, and ensure they have the information they need to make an informed decision around vaccination," Gharpure said.
 
Contact the writer: tbesecker@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9137; @tmbeseckerTT on Twitter.
 
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(c)2021 The Times-Tribune (Scranton, Pa.)
 
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