An investigation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of nursing home facilities in the Grand Junction, Colorado area show a link between the number of unvaccinated staff on-site and the number of coronavirus infections and deaths among the facilities’ patients, the Associated Press reports.
According to data compiled by the CDC, approximately 59% of staff at senior living and nursing home facilities are fully vaccinated, as are 80% of residents. However, the latest variant of the coronavirus, the Delta strain, is proving to be more contagious, even among those vaccinated, who tend to have a milder episode than unvaccinated people who are infected.
In the elderly, immune systems may not react robustly to the vaccine. “[O]lder adults may not respond fully to the vaccine and there’s enormous risk of someone coming in with the virus,” said Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, vice dean for public health practice at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Vaccinating workers in nursing homes is a national emergency because the delta variant is a threat even to those already vaccinated.”
The CDC study looked at outbreaks of the coronavirus at elder care facilities in Mesa County, Colorado, in May and June. Mesa County has been a national hotspot for the coronavirus since the Delta variant swept the country, and the number of cases and deaths among nursing home staff in the area has increased greater than the rest of the county.
In one county facility, 58% of the staff and 92% of the residents were fully vaccinated, but a recent report showed that 30% of the vaccinated staff and residents there had contracted the Delta variant.
“What we need to do is get past the emergency use basis, to have (vaccination) be a standard of care,” said Terry Fulmer, president of the John A. Hartford Foundation, a nonprofit working to improve care for older adults, noting that once the FDA fully approves the vaccines, they can be mandated for health care staff.