Spokane Journal of Business

Staff vaccinations below goals at nursing homes

Facilities also seeing worker shortages, rise in urgent need for PPE

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One in five nursing home facilities throughout the U.S. meets the threshold of having at least 75% of staff fully vaccinated, AARP has found.

According to AARP’s latest release of its Nursing Home COVID-19 Dashboard, which incorporates new data on vaccination rates among nursing home staff and residents, slightly more than half of health care workers in nursing homes were fully vaccinated nationally, and about 78% of residents were fully vaccinated as of the week ending June 20.

In Washington state, less than one-third (30%) of nursing homes meet that threshold for staff, while 77% of residents are fully vaccinated, the dashboard shows.

In Idaho, only 5.3% of nursing homes meet the staff vaccination threshold, while 78% of residents are fully vaccinated.

Vaccination rates vary widely from state to state, ranging from less than half of staff (41%) in Louisiana to a high of 84% in Hawaii.

“More than 184,000 residents and staff of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities have died from COVID-19,” says Nancy A. LeaMond, AARP executive vice president and chief advocacy and engagement officer. “This national tragedy cannot be repeated.”

To prevent new surges of COVID-19 cases and deaths, the national goal is to get 75% of long-term care workers fully vaccinated in every facility, according to the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

AARP’s analysis also found that more nursing homes reported an urgent need for PPE in the last month, increasing to 5% of facilities from 3.6% in May, and 24% of facilities reported a staffing shortage—a problem that has persisted through the pandemic.

In Washington, 10.7% of nursing homes reported an urgent need for PPE, up from 4% a month earlier, while 3.9% of Idaho nursing homes reported an urgent PPE need, a slight uptick from a month earlier.

In Washington, 44% of nursing homes reported staffing shortages last month, while 37.3% of Idaho facilities reported staffing shortages.

“With cases once again rising across the country and considering the highly contagious Delta variant, every effort must be made to protect vulnerable nursing home residents,” LeaMond says. “AARP encourages residents and staff in long-term care facilities to get a free COVID vaccine to protect yourself, your family, and your community.”

AARP has sent a letter to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services urging the agency not to become complacent regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, especially for vulnerable populations.

AARP recommends that the federal government commit to working with states, long-term care facilities, and other entities as needed to ensure that those facilities can access and administer vaccines for the foreseeable future.

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