Rockford's Independent Newspaper

Pritzker discouraged that health care workers are holding out on getting virus vaccine

By Kevin Bessler
The Center Square

CHICAGO — A recent study shows the health care workers who perform most of the direct care for nursing home residents are lagging in vaccination rates.

JAMA Internal Medicine reports vaccination rates for certified nursing assistants are less than 50% nationwide as of July 18. Registered and licensed practical nurses were 61% vaccinated, while therapists and physicians were at 71%.

“Maximizing vaccination coverage among nursing home staff and residents is critical because of the extreme vulnerability of this population to COVID-19,” the authors of the study wrote.

According to the latest figures from the AARP COVID-19 dashboard, just 31% of Illinois nursing homes have a vaccination rate of at least 75% for all staff.

“It is very unfortunate that there are so many people in any given location that are unwilling to go get vaccinated, but look, the testing regimen is there in order to make sure they are not entering the institution where they work and spreading COVID-19,” Pritzker said Tuesday at a Cicero health center.

Vaccines will be required for all state employees at congregate housing facilities. The deadline for compliance is Oct. 4.

Nationally, about 84% of nursing home residents are now vaccinated, which is being credited with slowing but not preventing the spread of the delta variant among patients.

Pritzker said fear may still be playing a part in some health care workers avoiding the shot.

“They are people who are genuinely still afraid to get vaccinated for whatever reason,” Pritzker said. “They need to be educated about the vaccine.”

In an industry that was dealing with worker shortages before the pandemic, there are fears a vaccination mandate will cause some workers to quit and go to other health care fields.

“Focusing only on nursing homes will cause vaccine-hesitant workers to flee to other health care providers and leave many centers without adequate staff to care for residents,” said Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living.

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