Some nursing home staff members in the DC region refuse to get vaccine, officials say

While many of our most vulnerable community members live in nursing homes, a startling number of workers in those facilities have decided against taking the coronavirus vaccine, according to officials.

"It’s incredibly concerning because they are at such high risk," explained Tufts Medical Center Chief of Infectious Diseases Dr. Helen Boucher. "We need to get 60 to 80 percent of our population immune via vaccination so that the virus will stop spreading, and we need it to stop spreading everywhere but especially in places like nursing homes and hospitals where we have very vulnerable patients."

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But getting to that point is not going to be easy.

As previously reported in the Washington Post, a huge percentage of nursing home workers in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia have flat-out refused to take the vaccine.

In Maryland, only about 55 percent of nursing home employees were vaccinated initially, said Joseph DeMattos, the president and CEO of the Health Facilities Association of Maryland.

Elsewhere, things are even worse.

In D.C., only about 40 percent of workers have gotten on board, according to District of Columbia Health Care Association president Veronica Sharpe.

There are a few reasons why. One is the historical mistrust of the medical system, especially among communities of color that make up a large percentage of those who work in the industry. The officials also said internet misinformation is playing a role, and they added that the speed at which the vaccine was developed may be causing some hesitancy too.

Still, though, there are signs the numbers are heading in the right direction.

"As we begin the second round of clinics this week, we are seeing more employees taking the vaccine," DeMattos explained.

"I believe they’re going to get better because providers are learning what is more effective in communicating with their employees," added Sharpe.

That’s happening via peer-to-peer talks, pushing out good information, and Sharpe also said that more workers are coming around once they see their colleagues get vaccinated and remain healthy.