Staffers refuse COVID vaccine at scores of NY nursing homes

An alarmingly low number of New York City nursing home staffers have been vaccinated for COVID-19, despite the danger the virus poses to elderly residents, a Post review of state Health Department data reveal.

More than six months into New York’s vaccination campaign, nearly a third of workers at the city’s elder care facilities have still not gotten a jab — and at 16 of the city’s homes less than half are vaccinated, state Health Department records reveal.

The biggest resistance was at the 280-bed Linden Nursing home in Brooklyn, where just 33 percent of staffers were vaccinated, well below the 60 percent inoculation rate for its residents. And that low number is an improvement from the 25-percent staff vaccination rate in May.

 “Those low vaccination rates for nursing home staff are absolutely insane,” said Assemblyman Ron Kim, who chairs the State Assembly’s Aging Committee. “They had access to the vaccine before any of us. There should be a requirement for anybody working in these facilities to be vaccinated.”

These low vax numbers at nursing homes — where staff are not requited by law to be immunized from COVID-19 — come despite the acute vulnerability such facilities have to the disease.

More than 15,000 residents died from the ailment in New York state, leading to a federal probe of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s handling of the elderly home residents during the early days of the pandemic.

Assemblyman Ron Kim, chair of the State Assembly's Aging Committee, called the low staff vaccination rates at nursing homes "insane."
Assemblyman Ron Kim, chair of the State Assembly’s Aging Committee, called the low staff vaccination rates at nursing homes “insane.”
Hans Pennink

In general, the number of staffers getting inoculated significantly lags behind the rate of nursing home residents who received their COVID-fighting doses.

Statewide, 87 percent of nursing home residents are vaccinated compared to just 67 percent of staffers, many of whom provide direct care to the frail elderly.

In New York City, 81 percent of nursing home residents are vaccinated compared to 67 percent of staffers.

But in Brooklyn, only 58 percent of nursing home staffers have been vaccinated through July 10 compared to 75 percent of the nursing home residents.

At one home in Queens, the Peninsula Nursing & Rehab in Far Rockaway, only 38.7 percent of the staff were vaccinated, compared to the 72 percent of residents. The staff vaccination rate has increased from an even worse 26 percent in May.

The third lowest rate of staff vaccination came at the Schulman & Schachne Institute for Nursing in Brownsville, Brooklyn, where only 41.5 percent of workers are vaccinated.

While nursing home staff do not have to get jabs under state rules, Cuomo has directed both the state and city universities in New York to require students to get vaccinated in order to attend classes this fall.

The City University of New York’s board of trustees approved the vaccination edict for students at a meeting last week.

About one third of staffers at New York City nursing homes haven't been vaccinated for COVID-19.
About one third of staffers at New York City nursing homes haven’t been vaccinated for COVID-19, according to data.
Sipa USA via AP

Nursing home industry officials say they are pushing as hard as they can to encourage all staffers and residents to get their COVID shots.

“Managers of the nursing homes have every incentive to encourage the staff to get vaccinated. That’s what the families want and residents want,” said Michael Balboni, CEO of the Greater New York Health Care Facilities Association, a nursing home advocacy group.

Asked about the low staff vaccination rate, Richard Brum, general counsel of the Allure Group that operates the Linden nursing home said, “While we respect individuals’ personal health decisions, we have made it clear through continuous educational outreach that we strongly encourage all staff to get vaccinated, which we accommodate onsite upon consent.” Neither of the other two homes responded to a request for comment.

The union representing the nursing home workers, 1199 SEIU, have not opposed vaccination, but have said they don’t want it mandated.

“The reality is some nursing homes are still failing to protect some of the most vulnerable New Yorkers,” State Health Department spokesperson Jill Montag said. “As we’ve said repeatedly, nursing homes, their associations and unions have a moral and ethical obligation to ensure that nursing home employees get vaccinated. While the Department of Health continues to conduct outreach and provide resources, the staff vaccination rate at some nursing homes throughout the state remains inexcusably low.”

Metro | New York Post

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