Some of the worst offenders in the fight to contain the "pandemic of the unvaccinated" are actually the nation's nursing home and long-term health care workers, ProPublica reported on Friday. Seven months after vaccines were first made available to medical professionals, only 59 percent "are fully or partially vaccinated — with eight states reporting an average rate of less than half," per Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services data.
And staff vaccination rates have stalled "even as the overall rate for [vaccinated] residents climbed to 83 percent," ProPublica writes. In fact, 23 individual nursing home or long-term care facilities reported rates under 1 percent, says CMS. Among unvaccinated Americans, a "significant percentage" work in the nation's nursing homes.
Heidi Lucas, director of the Missouri Nurses Association, told ProPublica that "it is impossible to separate the lack of vaccination among staff from the lack of vaccinations in individual communities." "Nurses are people too," she said. "They are on social media and inundated with false information. How do you fight it?"
Southern states — especially Louisiana and Florida, where elder-care staff vaccination rates are the worst and second-worst in the nation — are confirming health care experts' "worst fears," writes ProPublica. Just 44.5 percent and 46 percent of nursing home staff in Louisiana and Florida, respectively, are at least partially vaccinated.
The good news is almost 90 percent of those aged 65 or older have received at least one shot. Still, "we need to sound the alarm," warned Susan Reinhard, senior vice president of AARP. "Nursing homes were devastated by COVID-19, and many residents remain highly vulnerable to the virus." Read more at ProPublica.