More than 1 in 3 U.S. nursing home residents and nearly 2 in 3 nursing home workers had still not received a COVID-19 booster as of late February, according to an AARP analysis of federal nursing home data released Thursday.
In some states, the booster rates were even lower. Less than half of nursing home residents were boosted in Arizona, Florida and Nevada. And less than a quarter of workers were boosted in Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi and Tennessee.
Nationally, the analysis found that 36 percent of U.S. nursing home residents and 64 percent of nursing home workers had not received a COVID-19 booster as of Feb. 20. These figures capture all nursing home residents and staff, including the 13 percent of residents and 14 percent of staff who are yet to complete an initial series of vaccinations, plus the nearly one-quarter of residents and half of staff who are fully vaccinated but have not gotten a booster shot.
AARP called on nursing homes to require COVID-19 booster shots for residents and staff in January. “We are so fortunate to have what we need to better protect nursing home residents and staff: vaccine boosters,” says Susan C. Reinhard, coauthor of the analysis and director of the AARP Public Policy Institute. “They are plentiful and free. It is imperative to step up efforts to deliver them now.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged long-term care in the U.S. More than 200,000 American COVID-19 deaths have been residents or staff in nursing homes, assisted living facilities and other senior care facilities, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Many nursing home residents and staff are unsure of the official guidance for boosters or fatigued by continually changing guidance, facility owners say. “So much misinformation continues to run rampant in our society,” wrote a spokesperson for LeadingAge, which represents more than 5,000 nonprofit aging services providers, in a recent email to AARP.
Delays in receiving consent from resident representatives, long waits for pharmacy partners to provide on-site vaccinations, and the lack of a cohesive federal campaign to bring boosters to nursing homes may also be having an effect. “In the beginning of the U.S. vaccine rollout, there was a lot of focus and effort to reach those in nursing homes,” says Jennifer Kates, senior vice president and director of global health and HIV policy at the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. “We haven't seen that same push on the booster side.”