Low vaccination rates among nursing home workers concern experts, health officials

Problem Solvers

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — Experts are concerned that vaccination rates for nursing home employees are far lower than they should be because many workers don’t want the vaccine.

Village Shalom, a senior living facility in Overland Park, sent out a letter to family members touting the success of its first vaccine clinic, noting that 92% of all residents were vaccinated, but only 34% of its employees.

That low percentage of employee vaccinations did not surprise the industry experts FOX4 Problem Solvers contacted. They estimated that 60% or more of employees at long-term-care and other senior living facilities nationwide are declining to be vaccinated.

Village Shalom did not respond to our request for comment.

“I am glad you are looking into this,” said Dr. Rex Archer, director of the Kansas City Health Department. “It’s an issue we have been struggling with.”

Archer said unvaccinated employees put elderly residents in danger — even those residents who have received the vaccine.

“It’s actually more important to vaccinate the workers because not every resident’s immune system responds to the vaccine,” Archer said.

The low vaccination rate is a problem that the Kansas Health Care Association is aware of, said KHCA Executive Director Linda MowBray, whose organization represents 200 senior-living facilities.

“There’s pockets of the state that didn’t want to wear masks,” MowBray said. “There’s pockets of the state that don’t believe in the vaccine. A lot of conspiracy theories floating around out there, too.”

MowBray said a lot of misleading and just plain bad information is prevalent among nursing home employees and needs to be addressed and corrected.

“It’s going to affect when we can open nursing homes back up again,” she said. “If we have a lot of employees who are not vaccinated, or a lot of residents who choose not to be vaccinated, that is going to slow down the process of letting family members, loved ones back in.”

MowBray said leadership at these facilities need to take the reins to solve the problem.

“It takes that person who is going to stand up and say we need to do that for our residents,” she said. “It’s the right thing to do.”

MowBray said most facilities still have two more vaccination clinics and she’s hoping more employees will take advantage of them. 

FOX4 is continuing to work for you with questions you should ask any facility caring for your loved one:

What is the employee vaccination rate? What are they doing to improve it?

We’ll continue to follow developments with the vaccine and its distribution.

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