Families depend upon elder care facilities, nursing homes and hospitals to care for or treat elderly loved ones. Despite nearly 135,000 fatalities among residents and staff, new federal data states that only 55% of nursing home staff are vaccinated against COVID-19. Conversely, residents are 78% vaccinated.
The good news is the number of COVID-related fatalities declined steeply in recent months. However, variants are still a problematic issue, and there are instances when the vaccinated contract the virus.
Should staff vaccinate?
It’s in the best interests of everyone to get vaccinated, but not all facilities require it. The unfortunate financial reality is that nursing home staff are not well paid and do not get sick pay, which means they may show up to work when they should stay home. They often work at multiple facilities to make ends meet. They come into close contact with immune-compromised residents, particularly during feeding, baths and dressing. Because of difficulties in finding staff, they are also attending higher than the recommended number of patients.
A cautionary tale
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these concerns over nursing home safety played out last March at a Kentucky nursing home. While 75 of 83 residents were vaccinated, only 61 of the 116 workers were vaccinated. It led to an outbreak where 50 people became infected with the virus, including 18 vaccinated residents. Three residents died, including one vaccinated resident. It would have been worse if many residents were not vaccinated, but officials tied the outbreak to a worker.
No one can afford to take unnecessary risks
Families with elderly loved ones living in one of these facilities should share their concerns with the administration. They then may need to act if the response is unsatisfactory or, worse, the conditions become unsafe because the staff spreads the virus.