Mistrust And Worry Fuels Vaccine Skepticism: Many Nursing Home Workers Are Rejecting COVID Vaccine

An American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) article says that, despite the inclusion of nursing home staff in the top tier for receiving the coronavirus vaccine, so far only a low percentage of workers have agreed to get vaccinated. Only 37.5 percent—less than half of those workers to whom the initial shot of the COVID-19 vaccine was offered through the federal program with CVS and Walgreens—opted to get it, says a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

This low percentage of participation among nursing home workers “raises concern,” says the CDC, which goes on to point out how high-risk the occupation is for contracting COVID; more, according to the AARP article, studies indicate infected workers are among the top causes of nursing home COVID-19 outbreaks. With these risks in mind, as well as the understanding that herd immunity is best reached when 70 to 85 percent of a community is vaccinated, why are nursing home workers opting out?

According to the CDC, workers are declining the vaccine  because they believe it to be ineffectual and/or because they fear potential side effects. The report cites an Indiana survey that shows that 70 percent of long-term care workers who said they would refuse the vaccine would do so over concern about side effects. The AARP article suggests that fear of side effects among nursing home workers stems from their inability, as hourly employees with low benefits or sick leave, to afford to be sick. AARP vice president for state advocacy and strategy integration Elaine Ryan goes on to say poor working conditions are behind workers’ vaccine skepticism. “These workers are poorly paid, get few benefits or sick leave and receive very little information and support when they need it,” says Ryan. “Can you blame them for not rushing to get a shot they know very little about, from [the nursing homes] who have treated them so badly?”

The CDC report called for the “continued development and implementation of focused communication and outreach strategies” to combat the sticking points preventing workers from getting vaccinated. Meanwhile, the first round of on-site vaccinations provided by CVS and Walgreens has already concluded, which means gaining ground with nursing home workers will have to take place during the planned second round, when it will be critical to distribute first shots to those missed in the first round if full inoculation is hoped to be attained through the on-site program.

Walgreens said in a press briefing that other plans are in the works to provide vaccination opportunities to nursing home workers, although these plans might subject workers to the same vaccine waiting game faced by millions of Americans. Another challenge is one of timing. With many Pfizer and Moderna vaccine trial participants claiming pronounced side effects upon receiving the second dose, facilities already trying to cope with staffing shortages might find staffing exceedingly difficult if several members of their staff are receiving dose number two—and calling out of work—at the same time.

Fighting for Your Loved One during Trying Times

Even in the midst of a pandemic, Pennsylvania and New Jersey nursing homes are required to meet specific health and safety requirements and to provide such care as to secure the physical, mental, and psycho/social well-being of their residents. To meet these standards, the Philadelphia/PA or NJ nursing home where your loved one lives must be equipped to avoid the poor care that amounts to nursing home neglect or abuse. This includes ensuring adequate, quality staffing. Should you have concerns about a Pennsylvania or New Jersey nursing home during COVID-19, or if you suspect neglect, abuse, or fraud has occurred at the Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, or New Jersey nursing home where your loved one lives, please contact nursing home abuse attorney Brian P. Murphy to discover your legal rights and options.