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Less than 50% of nursing home staff in Alabama are vaccinated against COVID-19

Nationally, 56.7% of nursing home workers are vaccinated
Published: Jul. 23, 2021 at 12:22 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) – Less than 50% of people who work in nursing homes in Alabama are vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

“That is really too low,” said Jamie Harding, AARP Alabama. “And, we’d like to see a plan from the nursing homes and their operators on how they’re going to address this.”

AARP analyzed data from CMS and found 47.8% of nursing home workers in Alabama are vaccinated, lagging behind the national average of 56.7%. Alabama nursing homes are also falling short of an industry goal of getting 75% of nursing home workers vaccinated by the end of June. According to AARP, 4.5% of nursing homes in Alabama have reached that target.

“Our national association, the American Healthcare Association, set a goal of having 75% of nursing home staff members of COVID-19. So far, as a country we haven’t met that goal. A number of nursing homes have met that goal, a number of nursing homes are close to meeting that goal,” said John Matson, Communications Director, Alabama Nursing Home Association (ANHA).

People living and working in long-term care facilities in Alabama were among the first in the state to have access to the vaccine. When vaccinations began in January, thousands of residents had been infected with COVID-19 and more than 1,200 people died from the virus.

READ: Northport Pharmacy helping to vaccinate thousands of nursing home residents, workers

Infections and deaths have dramatically decreased as almost 80% of residents are now vaccinated but Harding fears another surge as COVID-19 infections and reports of the Delta variant are rising statewide.

“We just aren’t out of the woods yet and this is a very concerning trend that we are seeing,” said Harding. “So, when we have low vaccination rates and we have a highly contagious variant, that is setting up unfortunately another opportunity for the virus to infect these facilities.”

She added, “What we really want to see is a plan to urgently address this situation so we don’t go back again.”

Matson said ANHA continues to educate nursing home staff and residents about the vaccine, and to make vaccinations readily available.

“What we have done is concentrate on making sure educational materials are available to every nursing home in the state.”

He added, “As more people see the safety of the vaccine, as they understand the efficacy of the vaccine, we think that will help them make the informed decision to take the vaccine.”

AARP is asking the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) to assist ANHA in addressing this issue and Dr. Scott Harris said those conversations have already started.

“I certainly wish nursing home staff had a higher rate of vaccination,” said Dr. Scott Harris. “We still have a lot of work to do.”

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