Many nursing home staff members around the country have declined the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Researchers with the CDC looked at more than 11,00 skilled nursing facilities that held at least one vaccination clinic between mid-December and mid-January, finding that nearly 78% of residents at these facilities received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. But among staff members, estimates plummeted to 37.5%.
“The program achieved moderately high coverage among residents; however, continued development and implementation of focused communication and outreach strategies are needed to improve vaccination coverage among staff members in [skilled nursing facilities] and other long-term care settings,” the researchers wrote in the report.
“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,” they added.
The findings provide evidence for a problem that’s largely been reported anecdotally up until this point.
Data previously showed that people who work in nursing homes and long-term care facilities get flu vaccines at lower rates than other health-care workers, the CDC noted in the report. Surveys suggest that long-term care workers are skeptical the shots work and don’t think viruses spread easily from them to the people they care for.
The problem was discussed last week during a meeting of an expert panel that advises the CDC on vaccine policy. At the meeting, the CDC’s Dr. Amanda Cohn said more staffers get vaccinated when a second or third clinic is held at a home.
“Continuing to capture those staff who did not accept vaccine early will be really important as we try eliminate outbreaks and protect both staff and residents in long-term care facilities,” Cohn said.
The government tasked CVS and Walgreens with administering the shots to long-term care homes in nearly every state. Each vaccine requires two shots a few weeks apart, and CVS and Walgreens say they have wrapped up first-dose clinics in nursing homes. The chains plan three visits to each location.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.