MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Workers at nursing homes across the country will be required to get vaccinated.
In an announcement earlier this week, President Biden said the new regulations being developed by Health and Human Services will be tied to nursing homes’ participation in Medicare and Medicaid programs.
A recent WREG Investigation found low vaccination rates at nursing homes across the Mid-South and the rest of the country. While many residents have been vaccinated, doctors say low rates among the people caring for them leaves an already vulnerable population at risk of new infection from the Delta variant.
The latest federal data continues to show that vaccinations for staff at nursing homes lags far behind residents. Nationally, just 60 percent of nursing home workers are vaccinated compared to 83 percent of residents.
The rates are even lower in some Mid-South states. Mississippi has the fifth lowest nursing home staff vaccination rate in the country at 49.7 percent. Tennessee is a notch above that at 50.04 percent. In Arkansas, the vaccination rate for nursing home workers is higher at 60 percent.
In fact, as of mid-August, only a dozen of Tennesssee’s more than 300 nursing homes had staff vaccination rates of 75 percent or higher. Three of those are in the Memphis area.
In Shelby County, The Village at Germantown had the highest staff vaccination rate at 89 percent. Quince Nursing and Rehabilitation had the lowest at 29 percent.
Meanwhile, 13 out of 27 nursing homes in Shelby County nursing have resident vaccination rates of 75 percent or higher.
COVID-19 has killed more than 130,000 nursing home residents across the country since the start of the pandemic.
Tennessee Health Care Association spokesperson Jay Moore sent a statement:
“THCA strongly supports efforts to increase COVID-19 vaccinations in long-term care facilities in Tennessee and across the nation. Unfortunately, the action by the Biden administration is misguided. Government should not single out one provider group for mandatory vaccinations. If implemented, vaccination mandates for health care personnel should be applied to all health care settings. Without this, nursing homes face a major workforce challenge.”
He continued, “Focusing only on nursing homes could cause vaccine hesitant workers to flee to other health care providers and leave many centers without adequate staff to care for residents, making an already difficult workforce shortage even worse.”
During an interview on WREG’s Live at 9, Stephanie Monroe with African Americans Against Alzheimer’s applauded the move.
“We just saw a couple of days ago, the government require that nursing home staff have to be vaccinated, that was huge,” said Monroe who advocates for reducing disparities in health care. “There was a lot of transmission of disease to these very vulnerable populations because of the lack of social distancing, wearing of masks and now people being hesitant and not being required to take a vaccine, in order to interact with nursing home staff.”