Unvaccinated staff eyed in rising nursing home COVID-19 cases, deathsThursday, July 22, 2021
WASHINGTON, United States (AP) — Lagging vaccination rates among nursing home staff are being linked to a national increase in COVID-19 infections and deaths at senior facilities in July, and are at the centre of a federal investigation in a hard-hit Colorado location where disease detectives found many workers were not inoculated.
The investigation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of facilities in the Grand Junction, Colorado, area raises concerns among public health doctors that successes in protecting vulnerable elders with vaccines could be in peril as the more aggressive Delta variant spreads across the country.
Nationally, about 59 per cent of nursing home staff have got their shots, about the same as the overall percentage of fully vaccinated adults — but significantly lower than the roughly 80 per cent of residents who are vaccinated, according to Medicare. And some states have much lower vaccination rates of around 40 per cent.
Some policy experts are urging the Government to close the gap by requiring nursing home staffers get shots, a mandate the Biden Administration has been reluctant to issue. Nursing home operators fear such a move could backfire, prompting many staffers with vaccine qualms to simply quit their jobs.
To be sure, the vast majority of fully vaccinated people who become infected with the Delta variant suffer only mild symptoms.
But “older adults may not respond fully to the vaccine and there's enormous risk of someone coming in with the virus,” said Dr Joshua Sharfstein, vice dean for public health practice at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
“Vaccinating workers in nursing homes is a national emergency because the Delta variant is a threat even to those already vaccinated,” he said.
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