Some long-term care centers are resorting to a new tool to encourage its staff to get vaccinated. Investigative Reporter Katie LaGrone explains.
It’s the unexpected vaccine problem that just won’t go away in Florida’s long-term care industry, a vaccine reluctant staff.
“It’s been tough, it’s certainly been tough,” said Jennifer McConnell, COVID team leader for Grand Villa Assisted Living Facilities in Florida.
The company has 18 locations across the state and while 80% of its residents are vaccinated, its staff vaccination rate is still hovering around 30%.
In an effort to increase the number of staff vaccinated, the company recently started offering pop-up clinics and inviting family members of unvaccinated staff to get their shots on site. The idea, less exposure at home means less exposure in the facility.
“We have to be very resourceful in making sure our residents are taken care of and our team members are able to come to work and not exposed, so we’re doing everything in our power to make sure that happens,” McConnell said.
So far, more than two dozen family members have expressed interest in taking part.
Even though vaccinations are widely available to those 18 and older, the facility and its pharmacy partner believe offering the clinics is a convenient and easy stop for unvaccinated family members who just haven’t gotten around to getting their shot.
Family members of residents are also invited. McConnell hopes if hesitant staff see their own loved ones get the shot, it will encourage them to get the shot, too.
“That’s what our hope is, that it will push staff members over the edge to get the vaccine,” said McConnell.
Across Florida, state numbers show unvaccinated long-term care staff remains an issue. According to the Agency for Healthcare Administration, nearly 95% of long-term care residents in Florida are vaccinated but when it comes to the staff who care for them, just over 40% have rolled up their sleeves statewide.
Many facilities continue to offer incentives including gift cards, prizes and bonuses but it hasn’t proved to move the needle enough in some centers.
The Glenview at Pelican Bay, a senior community in Naples, recently produced a video starring its own residents sending messages to the staff, encouraging them to get their shot.
McConnell of Grand Villa says their new family vaccine clinics aren’t the last resort but another creative idea in their ongoing battle against vaccine hesitancy. The company is using their pharmacy partner who is providing the extra shots.
The Florida Senior Living Association also supports the idea and hopes other facilities follow suit.
“It’s a great idea,” said Sandi Poreda, spokesperson for the association and Grand Villa.
“As long as you can make sure you’re demonstrating that it meets the needs of the long-term care facility and it’s protecting the residents and it’s protecting the staff, if we have the opportunity to do that then let’s get those shots in arms, whatever we can do to drive those numbers up,” she said.