Jan 5, 2021 - Health

The vast majority of nursing home residents remain unvaccinated

Illustration of syringes as darts missing a target made to look like a health plus.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Only about 14% of the roughly 2.5 million COVID-19 vaccine doses distributed to nursing home residents and staff have been administered, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Why it matters: The slower-than-ideal rollout illustrates the complexity of vaccinating what should be one of the easiest populations to reach — and one that remains extremely vulnerable to the virus.

The state of play: The federal government has partnered with CVS and Walgreens to administer vaccines to the vast majority of long-term care facilities.

  • CVS — which expects to vaccinate up to 4 million residents and staff at more than 40,000 facilities — began administering shots in 12 states the week of Dec. 21, and in another 36 states plus Washington, D.C. last week.
  • A CVS spokespesman said the rollout is going largely according to plan: "We’ve encountered no delays, save for some difficulties in getting confirmation from facilities on clinic dates and requests to avoid vaccinating on or around the holidays."
  • And some states began vaccinations in a specific subset of long-term care facilities, the spokesman added.

The other side: West Virginia opted out of the federal program, and Gov. Jim Justice said last week that every long-term care facility in the state now has doses in hand.

  • "West Virginia is a smaller state, but this still speaks to the delays with the federal model when they are wrapping up the first round and many long-term care facilities in other states have yet to be even offered the vaccination," said David Grabowski, a health policy professor at Harvard.

Between the lines: Vaccine hesitancy is a problem, especially among staff.

  • Last week, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) said about 60% of the state's nursing home staffers who were offered the vaccine declined it, while 85% of nursing home residents have opted in.
  • Getting consent from residents "has also slowed things down," Grabowski said.

The bottom line: Every day nursing home residents remain unvaccinated is another day they're at risk of catching the virus that is circulating prolifically around the country.

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