COVID-19 vaccination rates among U.S. nursing home workers continue to lag nationwide, with only 1 in 5 facilities hitting an industry target of getting 75 percent of their health care staff fully vaccinated, a new AARP analysis of government data shows. A handful of states have especially low vaccination rates among both staff and residents.
Nationally, 56.7 percent of nursing home workers are fully vaccinated. But in Louisiana, just 41 percent of workers are, representing the lowest staff vaccination rate of any state or territory, the analysis finds. In Florida, home to over 700 nursing homes, only 42 percent of workers are fully vaccinated.
Although a much higher share of nursing home residents are fully vaccinated nationwide — 78 percent — some states are reporting much lower rates. In Arizona, just 63 percent of residents — fewer than 2 in 3 — are fully vaccinated, the lowest of any state. In Florida, only 68 percent of residents are.
Low vaccine uptake among both staff and residents in nursing homes leaves residents highly vulnerable to a resurgence of the virus, experts say.
More than 650,000 nursing home residents have been infected with COVID-19 during the pandemic, and more than 130,000 have died from the virus. Nearly a third of the more than 600,000 U.S. COVID-19 deaths have been in nursing homes, assisted living facilities and other long-term care settings. The virus has disproportionately killed older Americans; more than 80 percent of victims have been 65 or older.
AARP's analysis, released Thursday, also shows that COVID-19 cases and deaths in nursing homes are continuing to decline to all-time lows. Yet the newly released vaccination rates — which the federal government only required nursing homes to publicly report starting in June — are a new cause for alarm, says AARP's Susan Reinhard, senior vice president and director of the AARP Public Policy Institute.
"They show we've not passed the threat of COVID to nursing home residents,” she says. “In some states, the situation is really, really serious — there are just not enough people vaccinated, particularly as this delta variant takes off.”
Missing the target
Two of the country's largest nursing home trade groups, the American Health Care Association (AHCA) and LeadingAge, had set a target to vaccinate 75 percent of nursing home workers in every facility nationwide by the end of June. At the time, it was estimated that this rate among staff would provide facilities with a high degree of herd immunity.