Tennessee Nursing Home Workers Lag Nation In COVID Vaccination Rates

Apr 5, 2021
Originally published on April 4, 2021 8:45 pm

Tennessee’s vaccination rate for people who work in nursing homes and assisted living facilities is among the lowest in the country, according to a new report from the Center for Public Integrity.

Fewer than a third of staff members have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, despite being some of the first offered the shots through a federal program last December, administered by CVS and Walgreens.

It’s possible that some of long-term care staff in Tennessee were vaccinated on their own at local health departments rather than through the CVS/Walgreens partnership, thus not counted in the federal data. But Tennessee is one of just seven states where vaccinations are below a third.

Some states in the northeast are over three-quarters. Arkansas ranks as one of the worst states, with just one in 10 staffers vaccinated. The state-by-state CPI report is based on federal data through mid-March.

“I consider it to be a very, very dangerous scenario in that so few employees are willing to be vaccinated,” Arkansas nursing home resident advocate Martha Deaver tells CPI. “I’ve been called by hundreds of family members who are appalled that they’re getting calls every day about reinfections or more infections.”

At the end of March, the Tennessee Department of Health was still monitoring 55 clusters of cases in nursing homes and 16 in in assisted living facilities.

Meanwhile, the federal program that’s vaccinating nursing home residents and staff is winding down. That means states are now left to figure out how to get staffers to reconsider getting a vaccine.

Many nursing home companies have continued to encourage staff to get their shots, especially since nursing homes have been the most deadly setting for COVID-19. And while residents are all offered the vaccine, they can’t be forced to take it either.

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