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Our Opinion: Nursing home staff vaccination rate unacceptable

August 15, 2021 at 4:05 a.m. | Updated August 15, 2021 at 12:40 p.m.

Nationally, not even 60 percent of nursing home staff have chosen to get the COVID-19 vaccine. That's unacceptable.

What's more unacceptable is Missouri has the third-worst rate of vaccinated nursing home workers: just 47 percent. The statistics were recently reported in a Missouri Independent story we published.

This is at a time when the delta variant is spreading like wildfire, especially through the unvaccinated.

As of this writing, 9,970 Missourians have died of COVID-19. Of those, as of late July, 35.5 percent of the state's COVID-19 deaths occurred among nursing home residents and staff, according to data compiled by Saint Louis University researchers.

During the pandemic, many nursing homes took extreme caution to protect their residents from visitors, including their own family members. But what good does that do if they're being cared for by unvaccinated workers?

In most Missouri nursing homes, residents have higher vaccination rates than the workers.

The nursing home industry has been reluctant to mandate vaccines because nursing homes already are struggling to stay fully staffed.

Fortunately, that reluctance may be changing, the Associated Press recently reported. The new requirement at Genesis Healthcare, which has 70,000 employees at nearly 400 nursing homes and senior communities, is the clearest sign yet owners may be willing to risk an exodus of employees.

"We're surrounding our most vulnerable residents with a lot of people who are unvaccinated, which is very scary," said Marjorie Moore in the Missouri Independent story. She's the executive director of VOYCE, a St. Louis nonprofit that advocates for quality living across long-term care.

Everyone has the right to decide for themselves whether the vaccine is right for them. But all jobs come with conditions of employment. If you want to work at a long-term care facility in Missouri, that should be one of them.

News Tribune

Print Headline: Nursing home staff vaccination rate unacceptable


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