One other COVID Threat: Unvaccinated Residence Nursing Employees

“It’s not just hospital workers,” the email read.

A GHN reader responded to stories about unvaccinated hospital workers that we shared with WebMD and Medscape. (Here is a link)

The emailer informed me that it was having trouble finding a home care company with employees vaccinated against COVID-19.

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His wife has stage 4 lung cancer and needs to be cared for at the couple’s home.

The reader, who asked to be identified only as “J”, said a home care company sent a physical therapist to confirm that he had not been vaccinated.

So J, who lives in the suburbs south of Atlanta, called the company to find out what was going on: “You have unvaccinated workers?”

The answer was yes.

The home care company, he said, told him it didn’t screen the workers to make sure they were only posting vaccinated personnel and that such actions were actually against company policies.

So he “fired” the company and looked for another company to help his wife.

Both J and his wife were vaccinated, but given their fragile health, any COVID infection could be fatal for them, he said.

“With her, if she gets anything at all, even the flu, she’s probably gone.”

J’s search for vaccinated home care workers coincided with a recent surge in COVID cases in Georgia and nationally.

The more contagious delta variant of COVID-19 now makes up 83 percent of the samples sequenced in the country, said CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, on Tuesday.

CDC Director Walensky at the Dalton Clinic. Image credit: WABE

“This is a dramatic increase from 50 percent for the week of July 3rd,” she said at a Senate committee hearing.

Delta is more transferable than any other variant identified so far.

It’s “incredibly contagious,” said Dr. Carlos del Rio, an emory infectious disease expert, told reporters on Monday. “The spread is much faster.”

When asked why Georgia isn’t seeing the same increase in COVID cases as other states like Tennessee, del Rio replied, “Just wait. [Georgia] is just behind some of the other states. ”

Georgia saw a 60 percent increase in cases last week, but is behind other states like Florida and Arkansas with a 93 percent increase of 109 percent compared to the past seven days, the Augusta Chronicle reported Monday.

Many workers may have doubts

Some hospitals in Georgia and elsewhere in the country have begun requiring their workers to be vaccinated. (Here’s a GHN article.)

According to our analysis of federal health data from 2,500 hospitals across the country, 1 in 4 hospital workers nationwide who had direct contact with patients had not received a single dose of a COVID vaccine by the end of May.

Meanwhile, home care workers showed low vaccination rates in a survey earlier this year.

According to a joint survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Washington Post, only 26 percent of home care workers were vaccinated by early March, compared with about two-thirds of hospital workers and half of nursing home workers.

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Home care workers care for elderly, disabled and terminally ill people at high risk of complications from COVID-19. Many workers are low-paid Black and Hispanic women who have expressed more caution about COVID vaccines in surveys, Stateline reported in April.

Vaccinating home care workers poses a logistical challenge, Stateline reported. Such helpers and nurses work from home and not from a central location. Some work directly for families or for employers who lack the equipment needed to administer COVID-19 vaccines.

Georgia and most of the states accepted home care workers in their earliest stages of vaccination.

“Most of the providers in our industry use the community [vaccination] Resources, especially from local health authorities, ” said Dave Lamb, legislative chairman of the Georgia Chapter of the Home Care Association of America.

“We had some providers who were set up as vaccination centers,” said Lamb on Tuesday. “Overall, our industry has worked to promote vaccines for our workforce to keep those we serve safe.”

He estimated that the vaccination coverage among home care workers here is now over 50 percent.

“Our internal numbers show that it has gradually increased over the past six months, and I expect that number will increase as the year progresses. The delta variant will help drive the increase. ”

The National Association for Home Care & Hospice said industry leaders have seen a vaccination range of 40 to 90 percent “depending on company and caregiver discipline.”

Vaccination rates for home care workers in health systems are higher than those of freestanding companies, said Tom Threlkeld of the NAHC. The rates for nurses and therapists are much higher than for rescuers, who have general rates less than 50 percent, he said.

Davis

Dorothy Davis, CEO of the Visiting Nurse Health System, which serves the Atlanta metropolitan area and other counties, said vaccination rates are higher than the state and national averages. She said more than 90 percent of hospice workers and 70 percent of home nurses have been injected. Visiting nurse was also focused on getting a vaccine for patients, she said.

Reasons for employees not receiving the vaccine include waiting for full FDA approval of the vaccine; those who do not wish to receive vaccines; and misinformation about the unsubstantiated claim that the gunshots could cause infertility.

“There’s also a group that believes they don’t have to take it and can just follow infectious practices,” said Davis. “This is the most difficult group to identify with.”

Regarding the risk to patients, she said, “I think there is an obligation on health workers not to cause harm.”

The good news for J and his wife is that he has finally found a company that can post vaccinated workers. The first visit to the doctor took place this week.

“We just had the first nurse to do the [therapy] visited. So far, so good. I just hope they send vaccinated workers as they promised. ”

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