Many nursing home staff decline vaccine: frustrated families wait for news on visiting restrictions

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ARVADA, Colo. — It’s now been one year since Marie Nadeau has hugged, kissed or even held the hand of her 87-year-old mom.

“It’s extremely difficult,” Nadeau said. “I want to hold her, and she needs that, too.”

Although Nadeau’s mom, Fae, has now received both doses of the vaccine, residential care visits in Colorado are still limited, in Marie’s case, to visits through a window.

“We sit out in the cold when we do the window visits,” she said. “I don’t know why I can’t at least give her a hug.”

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment says part of the problem is that while the vast majority of elderly residents are getting vaccinated, only about 50% of residential care staff are choosing to get the shot, even though they’re all eligible.

Participation nationwide is even lower, with just 37% choosing to be vaccinated among nursing home workers, according to the CDC.

“They’re the big obstacle of families getting to hug their loved ones,” Nadeau said.

Those state and national numbers match anecdotal evidence that many long-term care workers are skipping the vaccines out of concern they’re ineffective or unsafe.

CDPHE’s chief medical officer, Eric France, said it’s unclear when visitation restrictions might be lifted.

“We do have a little time before that will be occurring,” France said.

It’s a vague answer for people like Nadeau, who are growing more and more frustrated.

“If the staff doesn’t want to get vaccinated, I think they don’t need to show up for work,” Marie said. “My mom’s deteriorating rapidly compared to what she was a year ago.”

Families feel like they’re running out of time. For weeks there’s been worry about not having access to the vaccine. Now that’s it’s here, there’s concern nothing will change

“I’m not sure what to think about it all,” Nadeau said. “I miss her terribly.”