A nurse refusing a vaccine shot
Credit: Aleksandr Zubkov/Getty Images Plus

More than 90% of nursing home workers received their required COVID-19 vaccine doses following the implementation of a federal mandate, according to an estimate by the Office of Inspector General.

The OIG also found that 6% have been granted religious exemptions, with about 24% of religious exemptions in the nation’s Heartland. 

The findings were released Monday in a new report analyzing the COVID-19 vaccination status of nursing home workers as of March 2022. The OIG used a sample size of 1,000 nursing home workers from across the U.S. 

Data showed that 884 of the employees had received the required vaccine dose, with 506 of them receiving a booster dose. It also found that 78 had been granted a religious exemption from receiving the vaccine, 12 were partially vaccinated and three received medical exemptions. The remaining 23 had applied for an exemption that was currently in review or their vaccination status was not clearly documented. 

The OIG based on the findings estimated that 91% of staff nationwide have been vaccinated, while 56% have received a booster dose. At the time the audit was conducted, nursing home staff had accounted for approximately 1.1 million confirmed cases and approximately 2,400 deaths

The report revealed that the percentage of nursing home staff who received the required vaccines varied among the Department of Health and Human Services’ 10 regions.

Specifically, the percentage of nursing home staff who received the required vaccine doses was lowest in the Midwest (Region 5) at 70% and the Heartland (Region 7) at 71%, while the highest percentage was found in the Northeast (Region 1) with 99%. Overall,  four of the 10 regions had a percentage of 95% or higher.

The percentage of nursing home staff granted a religious exemption also varied across the 10 regions, from 1% to 24%. The percentage of workers with an exemption was below 10% in eight out of the 10 regions.

An OIG spokeswoman told McKnight’s Long-Term Care News that it does not have plans to “further assess religious exemptions granted for nursing home staff.” 

The agency’s report comes after a May study found that the healthcare worker vaccine mandate boosted nursing home workers COVID-19 vaccination rates by 25%.