Well over 106,000 residents and staff of long-term care facilities have died from the Covid-19 virus. This has accounted for 38 percent of the country’s Covid-related fatalities. Researchers say front line workers exposed to the virus in their communities are likely unknowingly transferring it to vulnerable nursing-home residents, emphasizing the immediate need to vaccinate workers.
Currently the federal long-term-care vaccination program, which is led by CVS Health Corp. and Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc., has begun its broad rollout in a dozen states , with thousands of nursing facilities scheduled for visits during the next few weeks. However, surveys have signaled that many front line workers are reluctant to get the shots, especially Certified Nursing Assistants. Some CNAs have been declining the vaccination in the limited number of facilities where vaccinations have been administered. A serious challenge since they are the ones that provide the most hands on care to the nursing facility residents.
When the National Association of Health Care Assistants, recently surveyed certified nursing assistants who work in long-term care facilities, nearly 72 percent of respondents said they do not want to receive the vaccine. It comes down to fear of the unknown. Several CNAs have indicated that they would leave the sector if forced to take a vaccine, according to Lori Porter the founder of NAHCA.
Front line workers across the US are voicing their concern. In Ohio Governor Mike DeWine stated that approximately 60% of nursing home staff declined the shot in Ohio. The Los Angeles Times reported Thursday that hospital and public officials in Riverside, California have been forced to figure out how best to allocate unused doses after an estimated 50% of frontline workers in the county refused the vaccine. Dr. Nikhila Juvvadi, the chief clinical officer at Chicago's Loretto Hospital, said that a survey was administered in December, and 40% of the hospital staff said they would not get vaccinated. Fewer than half of the hospital workers at St. Elizabeth Community Hospital in Tehama County, Calif., were willing to be vaccinated, and around 20% to 40% of L.A. County's frontline workers have reportedly declined an opportunity to take the vaccine.
Although the COVID-19 vaccine promises to be a crucial milestone in America’s battle against a pandemic that has inflicted especially severe carnage on nursing homes, getting Certified Nursing Assistants and other front line workers on board with getting vaccinated is another matter. Nursing facilities owners now have the task of convincing their front line workers that the vaccine is safe by holding webinars and other sessions to share information, having some of their executives get vaccinated publicly and highlighting those front line workers who are choosing to get the shots early.
Lawyers have said that employers are generally legally allowed to mandate Covid-19 vaccines for workers, a stance reinforced a few weeks ago in guidelines released by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. However most nursing-home owners have said they don’t plan on requiring the vaccine. Many facilities across the US are already facing staffing shortages after months of the pandemic challenges.
There is a great urgency for protection against the Covid -19 virus in long-term care. However, to have the greatest impact with massive effort will depend greatly on winning over front-line workers who say they are skeptical of the shots.
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