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About 60% of nursing home staff have received COVID vaccine

January 29, 2021 GMT

Nearly all of the state’s nursing home residents have received at least a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Connecticut, yet state figures show about 60% of nursing home staff have received their first shot.

Data reported by CVS and Walgreens and provided to the state’s Department of Public Health shows, as of Jan. 28, 18,539 first doses were administered to nursing home residents. There were fewer than 18,000 nursing home residents at that time — a population that fluctuates.

As of Jan. 28, data shows 16,641 first doses were given to nursing home staff, which include staff who regularly work in the building, including aides, nurses, cleaning staff, food service, and others. Josh Geballe, Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont’s chief operating officer, said Friday the administration believes that equates to about 60% of nursing home staff across the state.

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Even though staff lag behind residents when it comes to getting vaccinated, Geballe said the latest numbers mark an improvement.

“We were in the 40-50% range for staff after first clinics, so it is encouraging to see the staff rate increase to over 60% as more people get their first dose at the second clinics,” Geballe said Friday in an email to The Associated Press. “We are optimistic that rate will continue to increase as people see that the vaccines are highly safe and effective.”

He said there are no plans to require mandatory vaccinations for nursing home staff.

Meanwhile, data from assisted living facilities, where vaccinations began after nursing homes, was not yet available.

Matthew Barrett, president and CEO of the Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities and Connecticut Center for Assisted Living, said his organization is “encouraged” that the number of staff who’ve gotten vaccinated is increasing. Barrett said he believes the numbers will continue to trend upward.

“There is every reason to believe the numbers will continue to rise because we are just finishing the second vaccine clinics and a third vaccine clinic is yet another opportunity to vaccinate staff who were previously hesitant,” he said in an email.

Barrett said nursing home staff will continue to have priority access to the vaccine in the community. Also, he said there’s a possibility nursing homes will continue to offer on-site vaccinations to residents and staff even after the third clinic is done, but no final decision has been made yet.

“We think the facts about the vaccine effectiveness, including facts dispelling vaccine myths, and the example that nursing home employees taking the vaccine are showing to peers explain the increases in the numbers of staff taking the vaccine and will continue to help,” he said.

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On Thursday, Angel Quiros, Connecticut’s acting correction commissioner, said a survey of 5,400 staff members in state prisons showed 1,962 willing to take the vaccination, 1,694 who indicated they will not and 663 who said they are undecided. He said the DOC is sending out educational material in hopes of getting a higher compliance rate.

While Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Stamford, voiced concern during a hearing on Thursday about unwillingness among some corrections officers to get vaccinated, he said Friday he hasn’t contemplated legislation that might require workers at congregate setting, such as prison and nursing home employees, to get vaccinated.

“Education is the best way to go right now,” he said in a text. “We must keep our eye on herd immunity and the numbers. That will dictate next steps.”

He noted that Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious-disease expert, has said herd immunity would require a vaccination rate of about 70% to 85%.

More than 250,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Connecticut, according to the governor’s office. The state added 1,258 cases to the total on Friday, bringing it to 250,023.

Twenty-six more COVID-associated deaths were reported Friday, pushing the number of fatalities in Connecticut linked to the pandemic to 7,046.

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Associated Press writer Pat Eaton-Robb contributed to this report.