CDC Sounds Alarm On ‘Real Danger’ Sweeping The Nation

Despite the increased risk posed by the coronavirus to older adults, many nursing home staff and residents are not up to date with their COVID-19 vaccinations, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Data collected by the CDC since May 2022 shows that only six states have vaccination rates above 10 percent for staff members. The situation is slightly better for residents, with only three states having more than 50 percent of residents fully vaccinated.

The states with the lowest compliance among healthcare personnel include Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Mississippi, South Carolina, and West Virginia, all of which have only 2 percent compliance. Georgia, Indiana, Washington, Ohio, and Nebraska are not far behind, with only 3 percent of nursing home personnel fully vaccinated.

On the other hand, states like New Mexico, Alaska, Vermont, Hawaii, Rhode Island, and New Jersey have exceeded a 10 percent vaccination rate for healthcare workers. However, the states with the lowest share of fully vaccinated residents include South Carolina, Alabama, Texas, Arkansas, and Arizona.

The risks associated with low vaccination rates in nursing homes are significant. Dr. Marc Siegel, clinical professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center, emphasizes that nursing home patients are particularly vulnerable to severe COVID-19 infections due to their age, underlying health conditions, and proximity to one another. While staff members may be at a lower risk, vaccination can help decrease viral load and reduce the risk of transmission within the facility.

Dr. Sarah Park, medical director of medical affairs at Karius, a California biotech company, highlights the danger posed to nursing home residents by low vaccination rates among staff members. Given the immunocompromised nature of many residents, their risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19 is significantly increased.

Several factors contribute to these low vaccination rates. Park suggests that staff members may be skeptical or resist the vaccine due to concerns about safety, potential side effects, or a belief in natural immunity. Geographical trends also play a role, with areas exhibiting higher skepticism toward government or science often having lower vaccination rates. Access issues, economic barriers, and limited healthcare infrastructure hinder vaccine uptake.

Improving vaccination rates in nursing homes requires a multifaceted approach. Park recommends educational campaigns to address vaccine hesitancy and debunk myths. Additionally, nursing homes should ensure that vaccines are readily accessible through on-site clinics, mobile units, and flexible scheduling.