Long-term care providers pushing to get holdout staff fully vaccinated against COVID-19 now have an added concern: Convincing already inoculated workers to get booster shots as their immunity from the first round starts to wane.
The issue arises after the federal government just issued its COVID-19 vaccination regulation for healthcare staff at all Medicare- and Medicaid-certified facilities. The complications are fully emerging in Massachusetts as operators debate how to handle the situation, according to a report in the Boston Globe.
Those who live and work in long-term care facilities are currently recommended by U.S. health officials to receive booster shots. Just 27% of eligible staff at Massachusetts nursing homes, however, have gotten the additional dose, according to state data. More than 96% of staff in the state have been fully vaccinated, federal data shows.
“We believe booster shots are a major tool to both prevent and mitigate spread, and we are continuing to urge fully vaccinated residents and staff to receive booster shots as soon as they become eligible,” said Tim Brown, spokesman for the Plymouth Rehabilitation & Health Care Center, an 186-bed facility in Plymouth, MA, in a statement to the Globe.
“At some point boosters will be a condition of employment,” predicted Lou Woolf, president of Massachusetts based operator Hebrew SeniorLife.
Though recent research has shown a decline in vaccine effectiveness, there is a lack of data that boosters can prevent COVID-19 transmission, according to Michael Klompas, M.D. an infectious disease physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He added that nursing homes should, however, prepare for booster shot mandates.
“With public health policy, do you react or do you anticipate?” he said.