(The Center Square) – COVID-19 infections in Illinois’ nursing homes and veterans' homes are have decreased, but facility employees still seem hesitant to get vaccinated.
Illinoisans older than 65 continue to get vaccinated in higher numbers. Gov. J.B. Pritzker said last week that about 70% of the state’s elderly population had received at least their first of two vaccination injections.
The vaccination rates are credited with COVID-19 infection rates falling in managed care facilities by more than 80% in as little as seven weeks nationwide, according to a report from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. The report notes that studies have shown “COVID-19 cases dropped more quickly among residents as well as nursing home workers in homes that had done their first round of vaccinations compared with nursing homes that had not provided any vaccines yet.”
Despite national and state efforts to vaccinate facility employees – who are often found to be one path into nursing homes for the virus – don’t seem as enthusiastic about the vaccines as their residents have.
As of Mar. 15, 69,000 health care workers in Illinois had been fully vaccinated via a federal program, according to data compiled by the Center for Public Integrity. That amounts to just over half of the state’s total staff.
“The top three reasons we have heard have been concerns about the speed in which the vaccine was developed and approved, some concerns about infertility issues, and some concerns about long-term side effects,” said Dr. David Gifford, Chief Medical Officer at the American Health Care Association. “The vaccine development didn’t skip any steps at all. It was very safe. It does not cause infertility, and the side effects are almost non-existent other than the short-term effects of pain, fever, aches, headaches.”
The ACHA coordinated with the federal government to vaccinate facility residents that had seen the vast majority of residents in the U.S. vaccinated by mid-March.
Illinois’ veterans’ homes, one of which had seen an outbreak of COVID-19 in late 2020 that killed dozens of residents, have similar rates of vaccination. Tony Kolbeck, chief of staff for the state VA department, told the House Veterans Affairs Committee in March that 96.9% of the residents and 53% of the staff at the homes have been vaccinated. During the department’s winter campaign to vaccinate VA workers, the majority were refusing. In Manteno, only 18 percent had accepted a shot when offered.