A doctor injecting a senior with a vaccine booster shot

Residents of nursing homes largely aren’t up to date on their COVID-19 shots, and the uptake decline compared to earlier in the pandemic is significant, according to a report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

Even though older adults have a higher risk of severe infection from COVID-19 and the virus has spread rampantly among people in nursing homes, the report said only 40.5% of residents had up-to-date shots (or boosters). Data was published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report published on April 18. 

Details in the report included recent virus activity and vaccination in American nursing homes between October 2023 through February 2024. That’s well after the vaccine emerged at the end of 2020. Other recent reports have found the same trend: Fewer older adults are getting COVID-19 vaccines or staying up to date on them than they were earlier during the pandemic.

The area with the fewest compliant nursing home residents was the South, where 32.4% of older adults have opted to get the shot, while 47.3% older adults at nursing homes in the Northeast have stayed up to date.

“This finding indicates that an important prevention tool is being underutilized in this population,” the authors said.

In February this year, the CDC urged older adults over 65 to get one additional dose of an updated COVID-19 vaccine at least four months after getting the last one.

The report also found that infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus ranged from 61.4 per 10,000 nursing home residents during the week ending February 11, 2024, to 133.8 per 10,000 during the week ending Dec. 3, 2023. Cumulatively, the weekly infection rate and rates of hospitalization from COVID-19 were both highest in the Midwest region and lowest in the South during that time frame.

The news comes a few weeks after the US Food and Drug Administration fast-tracked a monoclonal antibody treatment designed to protect immunocompromised individuals over the age of 12 against COVID-19.