While nursing home staffers celebrate residents getting vaccinated, some workers are hesitant about getting the vaccine themselves. A recent national survey found that 15% of all health care workers declined to receive the vaccine, and nursing home staff were more likely to refuse than hospital workers.
Since vaccines are one of the best ways to protect the elderly, public health officials are concerned by this trend. Throughout the pandemic, long-term care facilities have accounted for 37% of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. even though they house just 1% of the country’s population. During the first month of vaccinations, a CDC analysis of more than 11,000 long-term care facilities found that just 38% of staffers received at least one dose of the vaccine, while 78% of residents got at least one dose.
Despite initially refusing the vaccine, some nursing home workers say they are simply hesitant. Some of them are concerned about long-term side effects, and others worry that politics played into the vaccine development process. In communities of color, some long-term care workers have concerns about the medical system’s historical mistreatment toward people of color. Other staff members worry about how the vaccine could interact with medications or impact fertility.
Instead of pressuring these individuals to receive vaccines, Dr. Kimberly Manning, a professor at Emory University School of Medicine and a participant in the Moderna vaccine trial, recognizes the importance of addressing these concerns with compassion and working from there.
Some nursing homes are offering incentives, such as gift cards or parties, to persuade staff members to get vaccinated. Many facilities are also taking steps to educate workers about the vaccine by addressing their concerns and bringing in doctors and pharmacists to answer questions.
So far, at least one nursing home chain in the U.S., Atria Senior Living, has announced it will require all employees to be vaccinated. On the other hand, other facilities are hoping to lead by example. Stewart Reed, administrator for the Brian Center/Cabarrus, anticipates staffers who initially rejected the vaccine will see their vaccinated peers are fine and eventually agree to be vaccinated themselves.
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