JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The COVID-19 vaccination rate among Florida’s nursing home workers is the second lowest nationally, only above the state of Louisiana, according to newly released data from AARP.
The analysis by the senior advocacy group shows less than 42% of nursing home staff in Florida had been fully vaccinated by June 20, compared to the national average of about 56%.
Hawaii led the country, with nearly 84% of its nursing home staff vaccinated against COVID-19. Louisiana’s vaccination rate among nursing home staff was 41%.
The new analysis comes at a time when, according to doctors, Florida’s infection rate is surging, mostly among unvaccinated residents.
“We are responsible for 1 in 5 cases in the United States, and even locally if you look, the Jacksonville metro area is responsible for 15% of all Florida cases as of last week,” said Chad Neilsen, UF Health Jacksonville director of accreditation and infection prevention. “Our hospitals are surging. The virus is surging.”
Neilsen said the statewide vaccination rate has been lagging since May, and oftentimes, nursing home staff data mirrors the state’s data. Neilsen said nursing homes are at a disadvantage when it comes to how much they can do in their facilities to prevent infections.
“Many of these long-term care facilities and nursing homes, don’t have as robust infection prevention programs that hospitals do, so they are kind of starting from behind the eight ball so to speak in terms of their actions to stop infections,” Neilsen said.
The AARP data reveals that while infections dropped over the four weeks leading up to June 20, 26% of the nursing homes reported at least one new case among workers and 11% reported a new infection.
Neilsen wants government officials to do more.
“The state has a lot of say over how nursing homes operate. The state was quick on the nursing home testing and protection efforts when COVID first hit, so I think it’s going to take the state government and local government to step into these nursing homes and say something has to change or else, and that or else could be lack of funding, move dollars out. We have to hold nursing home leadership responsible for getting people vaccinated,” Neilsen said.
Other states with low vaccination rates among nursing home staff include Mississippi, Missouri, and Georgia, all of which are all below 44%. News4Jax also checked with local hospitals to find out how many of their workers and staff have been vaccinated and learned more than 50% of hospital workers at UF Health have been vaccinated. As of Tuesday afternoon, News4Jax was waiting to hear back from Memorial Hospital, Wolfson Children’s Hospital and Baptist Medical Center South.