Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine expressed concern on Wednesday that those working in nursing homes were not taking the coronavirus vaccine.
Nursing homes are of particular concern for public health officials as data suggest that one in three coronavirus deaths are tied to nursing homes.
While DeWine did not have exact numbers during his news conference on Wednesday, he said roughly 60% of nursing home employees were not taking the vaccine. A request for data from Ohio’s Department of Health has not been returned.
Getting the 3 million residents and staff of nursing homes vaccinated nationwide has been a top priority for federal officials. Nursing home residents and staff have been among the first to receive one of two authorized coronavirus vaccines.
According to DeWine, nursing homes in Ohio are on track to have the first round of vaccinations completed in the next few weeks.
Major pharmacy chains such as Walgreens and CVS have been tasked with administering the vaccine to more than 70,000 nursing homes throughout the US.
“Our pharmacy partners who are doing the nursing homes, they’re moving, they’re right on track,” DeWine said.
“My message today is just urging people, not going to compel people to do it, but urging people to take that vaccine,” DeWine added. “What I am worried about is people who are not taking it.”
CVS and Walgreens wouldn’t say exactly what percentage of vaccines are being rejected by those in nursing homes.
What happens to those doses intended for nursing home employees is still in question. Last week, employees of a Walgreens in Lexington, Kentucky, had extra doses of the vaccine that were set to expire. Rather than letting them go to waste, the pharmacy offered vaccines to employees, area first responders and local residents.
The federal government has largely left the states in charge of setting protocols for administering vaccines. Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said that those protocols were not followed.
"Do I believe it came from a good place? Yes, because they didn't want any of it to go to waste,” Beshear said. “But should it have been done differently? Yes. Are there procedures in place that should've been followed that would've done it differently? Yes."
A Walgreens representative said on Wednesday, “Any remaining doses from scheduled clinics are reallocated to the next scheduled clinic at a long-term care facility. In the event that are remaining doses from a clinic that may potentially expire before the next scheduled clinic, those doses may be used to vaccinate Walgreens team members who are eligible to receive vaccines as part of the Phase 1a plan outlined by the CDC and states.”
The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living has been working to promote vaccinations among its 14,000 member nursing homes.
“Vaccination is the best tool we have had in the ongoing fight against this historic threat,” said Mark Parkinson, the president and CEO of AHCA/NCAL. “The faster we get people vaccinated, the more lives we can save. We believe this educational effort will help our residents and staff make informed decisions that will safeguard not only their own health, but also the communities where they live and work.”
“While delivery of a vaccine is an important milestone, it will only work if people take it,” added Parkinson. “By working with our members to provide staff, residents, and family members with the facts and information they need, we can hopefully begin to put this threat behind us. In the meantime, we must remain vigilant and continue to rally around our heroic caregivers and vulnerable residents.”
A CVS spokesperson said that its employees are prepared to speak to the importance of getting vaccinated to those apprehensive about getting the vaccine. Walgreens is also working toward educating those skeptical of taking the vaccine.
"We are delivering vaccine education through several means, including providing content, videos and materials in multiple languages, and collaborating with local community leaders and organizations to share information. We are producing content daily, and even hourly sometimes, to ensure our customers have the latest information at their fingertips," a Walgreens spokesperson said.
"We’re also providing vaccine recipients with the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) Fact Sheet, which details risks and benefits of the specific vaccine they are receiving, including side effects as well as additional safety monitoring resources from the CDC," the spokesperson added.