Gap between residents and staff at nursing homes, assisted living facilities getting COVID-19 vaccines continues to widen

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Perfection is hard to achieve in terms of vaccinations, but Beggs Pointe Assisted Living Facility is, indeed, perfect.

Their 14 residents and eight staff members all received the COVID-19 vaccine, giving them a sense of safety to open their doors for more visits from loved ones.

“(It’s) somewhat of a return to normal, not quite there yet, but in due time,” said Elden Santos with the assisted living facility.

READ: ‘Dramatic increase’ expected in number of long-term care facilities staff getting COVID-19 vaccines

But Beggs Pointe is the anomaly.

Back in January, Channel 9 reported that long-term care facilities were turning down their COVID-19 dose, but officials expected that number to “go up dramatically.”

It didn’t.

The latest data in nursing homes shows:

  • 71% of residents got the vaccine;
  • 39% of staff did.

At assisted living facilities:

  • 93% of residents got the shot;
  • 42% of staff did.

READ: Nearly all Florida nursing homes have received COVID-19 vaccines, data shows

Dr. Lindsay Peterson with the University of South Florida’s School of Aging Studies said she’s “surprised” and expected the number of vaccinated staff to go up.

“People were supposedly saying they just wanted someone to go first … but they didn’t want to be the first one,” Peterson said. “It’s gone beyond that.”

But why is this happening?

READ: ‘Stop being thick-headed’: COVID-19 survivors, experts stress importance of getting vaccine

According to Veronica Catoe, director of Florida’s Assisted Living Association, the low staff vaccination rate has to do with the consistent hesitancy, and facility managers are trying to get through to them.

“They’re still trying to figure out how they can help their employees be accepting of it,” Catoe said.

Though a majority of residents are vaccinated, staff can still infect one another, leading to a staff shortage. Also, an unvaccinated employee could then pass it along to a resident who couldn’t get vaccinated for medical or religious reasons, and that’s been happening.

READ: Florida reports 5,600 new COVID-19 cases, 55 virus-related deaths

“There’s a great deal of concern about it,” Peterson said. “All that said, these fears are real.”

Adam Poulisse, WFTV.com

Adam Poulisse joined WFTV in November 2019.