Only about 1/3 of nursing home staff getting COVID-19 vaccine, CDC reports in new study

COBB COUNTY, Ga. — The Atlanta area has seen firsthand the tragic consequences that COVID-19 has had on nursing homes over the last year, but an alarming new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows many nursing home workers are refusing to take the COVID-19 vaccine.

The CDC reported only about a third of nursing home staff have taken the vaccine when they were initially offered it.

Channel 2′s Justin Wilfon has learned that some nursing homes are now offering big incentives to try to get their employees to take the shot.

“During the time they were giving the vaccines, everyone was excited, and there was thumbs-up,” employee Sonya Williams said.

Williams said excitement filled the air at A.G. Rhodes Nursing Home in Cobb County the day the vaccine was first offered there. But she told Wilfon that she also saw something that concerned her.

“Some people were a little nervous and reserved,” Williams said.

Some didn’t want the vaccine at all.

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A month later, A.G. Rhodes management said even though 100% of its staff members at three metro Atlanta locations have now been offered the vaccine, only 44% have got it.

“As far as side effects and things, I think some people are a little nervous. And just distrusting of government in general,” Williams said.

A.G. Rhodes isn’t alone.

A new report from the CDC indicates even though nursing home workers remain on the front lines of the pandemic, only about a third of them took the vaccine when initially offered it.

“I think most people before the vaccine arrived were hopeful about it being the end in sight, the light at the end of the tunnel. But when it comes to being first at something, I think there’s been some hesitation with our staff,” A.G. Rhodes spokesperson Mary Newton said.

That’s why the nursing home got creative. Management began offering incentives to employees to get the vaccine, giving them a chance to win bonuses, TVs and even more vacation time if they get the shot.

“The incentives are a way to really promote the vaccine, to get people talking about it. To get them excited about the opportunity to really see the end of this pandemic,” Newton said.

Management believes the incentives are working, with more employees agreeing to get the vaccine in recent weeks.

Williams already received both of her doses. Now, she and other vaccinated employees have a new job of encouraging others to get the shot, too.

“Everyone that I know who’s had it, everyone is all fine, and we’re just really encouraging each other to think about it,” Williams said.

When it comes to residents getting vaccinated, management at A.G. Rhodes told Wilfon that about 82% of residents have received at least one vaccine shot at its facilities.

Nationwide, the CDC stated that number is about 78%.