About 60% of workers in Vermont’s skilled care facilities have been vaccinated – a far cry from the vaccination rate in other types of health care facilities where up to 90% of workers have received the vaccine.
State health officials said Vermont has enough vaccines nationwide for all nursing home workers and residents, and the low vaccination rate is just a result of the reluctance to vaccinate among nursing home workers.
Health Department spokesman Ben Truman declined to find out which nursing homes in the state have the lowest vaccination rates – even though around a third of qualified nursing homes in Vermont have vaccinated less than 60% of their employees. He said these facilities are not focused on any particular area of the state.
Why the hesitation? “There can be a variety of misunderstandings within this group that make them fearful of the vaccine because of incorrect information,” said Christine Finley, manager of the vaccination program at the Department of Health.
But she said Vermont did “pretty well” compared to other states in vaccinating nursing home workers. ON CDC study The report, released on Friday, polling over 11,000 skilled care facilities, found that an average of only 77.8% of residents and 37.5% of employees had received at least one dose of vaccine.
For comparison, at the 37 qualified nursing homes in Vermont, 92% of residents received at least their first dose of vaccine, and 66% of employees in qualified nursing, assisted living and nursing homes in Vermont received at least a first dose.
“We’re delighted,” Finley said, noting that news reporters from other states have called her to ask why Vermont is doing so well – a question she has no answer to.
“We’d love to see it a little higher, sure, but we think it might increase from these initial vaccination clinics,” she said.
Finley said lower acceptance rates among nursing home staff than other health care workers have been typical of the flu vaccine for many years, so it was not a complete surprise to see the same trend with the Covid vaccine.
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One bright spot, she said, is that this year all health care workers in Vermont had about 10% more flu vaccine intake than last year, and that no outbreaks of flu were reported in long-term care facilities, schools or workplaces.
Nursing home administrators say they’re pretty happy with the Covid vaccine uptake too. Most said they tried to educate their workers about the benefits of vaccination but didn’t apply too much pressure.
Ursula Margazano, administrator of Menig Nursing Home at the Randolph Center, said 97% of its residents and 83% of staff have so far opted for a vaccination – one of the better outcomes in the state. But despite those numbers, she said she was still trying to get more staff on board.
“I just reached out to some of our employees who, through our partnership with Gifford (Medical Center) and others across the community, have opted out of these first clinics for some upcoming vaccination clinics to encourage them to consider the benefits of a potential vaccination “Said Margazano.
She said the employees who log out are usually quite young – usually late teens or early 20s. Margazano said she reached out to people one by one to try to educate them about the vaccine as much as possible without being arrogant.
“Younger employees have mentioned that they want more information about how people react to vaccinations,” she said. “From what I hear, they see it as not being checked or tested as often as they might like.”
She said the same concerns aren’t an issue with annual flu shots. These recordings, she said, have nearly 100% participation from her staff.
Finley said Covid vaccination rates for nursing home workers may be low as they are more likely to come from marginalized communities that have historically had little trust in systemic racist government and health facilities.
“Some of the populations who may work in long-term care facilities may be part of disadvantaged populations or populations (black, indigenous or colored) who may not have as much trust in the government,” she said. “But there are a number of beliefs in every group.”
The state has offered a number of three nursing home vaccination clinics nationwide, giving all residents and staff the opportunity to receive their first and second doses of the vaccine. An additional clinic is planned for anyone who missed one of the first two places.
Truman also said delays in reporting and the fact that clinics are still being held as factors in low vaccination rates – although vaccination clinics in skilled care facilities are nearly complete and all of the state’s qualified care facilities had at least one clinic.
Finley said no facility has yet required workers to be vaccinated.
“I understand there may have been questions or concerns about it. I’m not even sure if this was from staff or the facility, but at this point I don’t think anyone did,” she said.
January Reichert, director of nursing at Gill Odd Fellows Home in Ludlow, said 44 of the 55 employees had been vaccinated – around 80%.
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“I had seen other places that set bonuses or incentives, we didn’t do anything like that,” said Reichert. “We were just trying to educate and limit the misinformation about vaccines.”
She said she has heard conspiracies from her staff ranging from Bill Gates using the vaccine as a population control to the vaccine which is actually a microchip that will track you everywhere you go. Reichert said she doesn’t see it as her job to change everyone’s mind, but she thinks it’s important to fight back against such ideas.
“We really hammered home the importance and importance of protecting the residents we care for,” she said. “We are asking them to do something that will restore the appearance of normality. Most of them were very willing to do so. “
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