Nov 22, 2023 - Health

Nursing home vaccination rates are low as COVID cases rise

Share of nursing home residents who are up-to-date on COVID-19 vaccines
Data: CDC; Note: Up-to-date includes those who received a 2023-2024 updated vaccine or a bivalent vaccine in the past two months; Map: Deena Zaidi/Axios Visual

Only about 17% of nursing home residents and 2% of staff are up to date on their COVID-19 shots as cases rise across the country and health officials prepare for another seasonal tripledemic of respiratory diseases.

The big picture: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention figures show takeup of the updated vaccine is lagging in the high-risk setting and could reflect the troubled rollout of updated shots that slowed distribution to long-term care facilities.

  • The Biden administration also lifted a vaccine mandate for health workers and other requirements with the end of the public health emergency.
  • That's left some of the most vulnerable Americans unprotected against the most common strains of the virus in circulation.

By the numbers: Arizona's nursing homes had the lowest rate of residents who were up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations at 6.2%. Meanwhile, South Dakota had the highest rate at 47%, followed by North Dakota at 43%.

  • Only four states — the Dakotas, Alaska and Hawai'i — had more than 30% of residents with updated shots.

Catch up quick: The pandemic showed how nursing homes can quickly become overwhelmed by the spread of this virus. Hundreds of thousands of residents and staff died during the pandemic.

  • The updated version of the COVID-19 vaccine was designed to protect against Omicron XBB.1.5 and helps prevent severe illness from strains that are descended from it.

Our thought bubble: Nursing homes can be a harbinger of things to come for the general population. And with the federal government taking a more diminished role in the pandemic response, it will largely be up to facility operators to boost vaccination rates and control the spread of infections.

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