TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — COVID hit nursing homes especially hard. Frail, vulnerable residents and close quarters made the virus especially deadly. Now AARP says nursing homes are falling short on complete vaccine protection.
Nursing home residents are at such high risk from the virus, they were some of the first to get the COVID vaccines.
A Federal program arranged for pharmacies to bring shot clinics to the homes.
AARP cites figures from the Medicare program that show in Arizona, 75 percent of nursing home residents qualify as fully vaccinated—and that’s true for 78 percent of nursing home staffers.
But immunity is fading from those shots given early last year and AARP says nursing homes are falling short on the boosters.
It says only 38 percent of nursing home residents have had COVID boosters. For nursing home staff that figure falls to 26 percent.
AARP State Director Dana Marie Kennedy remembers how hard COVID hit before vaccinations were available.
“There were some horrible outbreaks–absolutely horrible outbreaks, especially down in the Tucson area. And that's why it's so important that we get these booster shots and I don't understand why it hasn't been a bigger priority. When I saw the data first released, I was absolutely shocked that we weren't doing a better job.”
Kennedy says the Biden Administration did not renew the nursing home vaccination program when vaccines became easy to get. But nursing home residents need the vaccines to come to them and she says that has not been happening.
AARP sent a letter to Governor Ducey urging him to work at the state level and urge federal authorities to push harder to get more COVID boosters in the nursing homes. She says if you have a family member in a long term nursing facility there are things you can do too.
Kennedy says, “I would talk to the administrator and the administrator should make this a top priority to go ahead and talk to the pharmacy that they already have a relationship with and have them come in and get these residents get the booster shot. And the families do need to sign off on it. But if you're a family, talk to the administrator and ask if your loved one has received the booster shot? And if not, why?”