NAPLES — In early January, the marketing team of The Glenview at Pelican Bay went into residents’ rooms to film an emotional video. Residents of the retirement community, wearing “Glenview Strong” T-shirts, shared words of encouragement in hopes of easing vaccine apprehension among the staff members.

“Please everybody, take the two COVID shots,” said Jim Payne.

“It’ll be nice if everybody at the Glenview, people who live here and people who work here, have had the vaccine,” Mike Levy said. “That way we will have a coronavirus-free home. And all of us can be more relaxed and enjoy things more.”

“COVID is a beast of a disease,” Carol Levy said. “My sister died a week ago from it. We would very much appreciate anybody who hasn’t had the vaccine to feel privileged to get it. It is a lifesaver.”

But more than two months later, only 45 percent of Glenview’s staff has had at least one dose, according to executive director Patrick Noonan, adding, “obviously we’d like to get that higher.”

The low vaccination rate among staffers at long-term care facilities is common across the state. As of March 28, only 36 percent of Florida’s nursing home staff members and 40 percent of assisted-living staff members had received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the state Agency for Health Care Administration.

While the vaccination level is worrisome, interest has been growing among the state’s health care workers, one union leader said.

Meanwhile, the vaccination rate among long-term care residents is much higher — 68 percent of nursing home residents and 93 percent of assisted-living residents have received at least one dose, according to the agency.

As a result, coronavirus cases among long-term care residents have plummeted in Florida. The facilities reported 285 cases on March 27, down from a peak of 3,651 cases on Jan 17.

So how will long-term care centers close this gap, or will they?

Facilities are encouraging staff members to get the vaccine, said Kristen Knapp, spokeswoman for the Florida Health Care Association, the industry group representing nursing homes. Nursing homes are distributing educational materials about the vaccine, doing drawings for prizes and offering cash bonuses for those who get the shots.

A national study published on March 19 by the Kaiser Family Foundation and The Washington Post found that of 1,327 health care workers surveyed, 18 percent did not plan to get the vaccine, and 12 percent had not decided.

Some health care workers didn’t trust the former presidential administration’s handling of the pandemic in general and were hesitant to get the vaccine early on, said Bob Gibson, vice president of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, the largest union of health care workers in the state. It has members working in about 80 nursing homes and 30 hospitals. The hesitancy is still there for some, who wonder what’s in the vaccine and whether it’s worth getting, he said.

But more have begun getting their shots as the science behind the vaccines is released, he added. The union is against mandating vaccinations.

“If we want folks to get comfortable and take the vaccine, I think mandating it is counterproductive,” Gibson said. “That will really send a chill across the momentum that we’re building.”

Ralph Coppola, 80, left, registers for his 2nd injection of the COVID-19 vaccine while Darleen Boyden, 96, center, gets direction from Amanda Patterson, executive director of nursing at Heron House Assisted Living in Largo on Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021, where healthcare workers and residents received vaccinations against the coronavirus.
Ralph Coppola, 80, left, registers for his 2nd injection of the COVID-19 vaccine while Darleen Boyden, 96, center, gets direction from Amanda Patterson, executive director of nursing at Heron House Assisted Living in Largo on Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021, where healthcare workers and residents received vaccinations against the coronavirus. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

Governor Ron DeSantis has said that Floridians will not be required to get a coronavirus vaccine. The three vaccines approved so far are under emergency-use authorizations, meaning they can’t be mandated by government entities.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that employers “allow time for vaccine confidence to grow. Workers who are hesitant at first may become more confident after seeing coworkers get vaccinated,” according to the CDC website.

“We’re not looking at mandating the vaccine,” Knapp said, in part because of the long-term care industry’s staffing shortage.

“Mandating often doesn’t even work, because people can leave,” said Lindsay Peterson, research assistant professor of aging studies at the University of South Florida. “People can go elsewhere, especially with the staffing situation. These communities are not in a position to alienate their staff, who are already exhausted.”

But an outbreak among staffers might worsen the staffing shortages, Peterson said.

“There are still benefits to having everyone vaccinated,” said Dr. Marissa Levine, a professor of public health and family medicine at the University of South Florida. “There’s concern that the more unvaccinated people remain, the more possible it is for variants to spread.”

Facility administrators will need to put in extra effort to close the gap, she said.

“I think it’s going to require a very personal effort by nursing home leaders to connect with their staff in a meaningful way,” Levine said. “To really listen to what the questions and concerns are and … to help support them through the process.”

• • •

CORONAVIRUS IN FLORIDA: Find the latest numbers for your county, city or zip code.

NEED A VACCINE? Here’s how to find one in the Tampa Bay area and Florida.

VACCINES Q & A: Have coronavirus vaccine questions? We have answers, Florida.

GET THE DAYSTARTER MORNING UPDATE: Sign up to receive the most up-to-date information.

GET THE DAYSTARTER MORNING UPDATE: Sign up to receive the most up-to-date information.

A TRIBUTE TO THE FLORIDIANS TAKEN BY THE CORONAVIRUS: They were parents and retirees, police officer and doctors, imperfect but loved deeply.

HAVE A TIP?: Send us confidential news tips

We’re working hard to bring you the latest news on the coronavirus in Florida. This effort takes a lot of resources to gather and update. If you haven’t already subscribed, please consider buying a print or digital subscription.



Source link