Expressing “how grateful we are that the Biden administration has made nursing homes a priority,” Janet Snipes, executive director of the Holly Heights Nursing Center in Denver, Colo., Told CBS MoneyWatch that the facility is is now working to obtain consent from individuals for boosters. “We are not completely finished, but no one has refused. ”
Holly Heights began contacting residents and their families several weeks ago in anticipation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approving Pfizer-BioNTech boosters for millions of older or vulnerable Americans, including nursing home residents. nurses and those working in institutions. Boosters for those who have received Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines are expected to be approved in the coming weeks.
Almost all of Holly Heights’ 94 residents are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, and one is partially vaccinated, Snipes said. “The residents were very quick to sign up – all the data showed how vulnerable they are,” Snipes said. Among the employees, 87% of the 140 staff members are fully vaccinated and 6% are partially vaccinated.
The center closed a wing and consolidated operations after about 30 employees stopped working at the start of the pandemic. “At the very beginning there were a lot of negative stories about nursing homes and COVID and we lost staff at that point. They were just afraid to work, ”Snipes said. “Workers around the world – and healthcare workers in particular – are tired of COVID and are retiring faster. ”
“A lot of misinformation”
Nursing homes were at the epicenter of the pandemic last year, as the virus devastated facilities across the United States. Nearly 136,000 residents and more than 2,000 workers have died from the disease, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
With Holly Heights now operating at full capacity, Snipes hopes more employees will get vaccinated before a federal mandate requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for healthcare workers in facilities that receive Medicare and Medicaid funds takes effect. the deadline has not yet been announced.
“We don’t have anyone who has resigned yet. One nurse said she would work until the last day and then quit, ”said Snipes, who added that six other nurses had refused to be vaccinated. “There’s just a lot of misinformation out there. “
Announcing that the emergency regulations were being developed, CMS estimated that around 62% of nursing home staff were vaccinated nationwide. The emergence of the Delta variant has led to an increase in infections among nursing home residents, from a low of 319 cases on June 27 to nearly 2,700 cases on August 8. Many of the recent outbreaks have occurred in facilities located in parts of the United States with the lowest staff. vaccination rate, the agency said.
“We are very encouraged and excited to offer reminders to our seniors,” said Dr. Mark Gloth, Chief Medical Officer at ProMedica Senior Care, which operates more than 335 nursing and assisted living facilities with some 18,500 residents in 28 states.
ProMedica has already given third injections of Pfizer and Moderna to people with weakened immune systems. “This booster dose goes beyond – it’s for people who over time have had this waning immunity to COVID, especially in light of the Delta variant, ”Gloth told CBS MoneyWatch.
One of the few good things about the pandemic is that it has prioritized older Americans for research and funding, according to Gloth, whose company has partnered with Brown and Case Western universities to monitor effectiveness. vaccines in the elderly.
“Seniors are historically very underserved when it comes to research initiatives,” Gloth said.
While more than 90% of ProMedica residents aged 65 and over are vaccinated, the rate is lower among the company’s workforce, Gloth acknowledged. “We appreciate that some choose to leave the healthcare industry altogether. It has been a difficult year, ”he added.
Thefor some Americans, has also been acclaimed by Genesis Healthcare, which operates more than 250 skilled nursing centers and seniors’ communities in 23 states, as well as the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living, or AHCA / NCAL.
“We are delighted to hear that we can begin providing our patients and nursing home residents with a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine,” a Genesis spokesperson said in an email. “We expect this third dose to better protect our patients, residents and employees. We are acting very quickly to boost our patients and residents as soon as possible, having prepared our teams for this approval even before the CDC announcement. ”
“This move is another layer of protection we need to fight this virus which only targets our vulnerable long-term care population,” AHCA / NCAL Chief Medical Officer Dr David Gifford said on Friday in A press release.