Image of Sarah D Berry, M.D., MPH; Image credit- Hebrew SeniorLife
Sarah D Berry, M.D., MPH; Image credit: Hebrew SeniorLife

A comparison study across 413 nursing homes has teased out the top facility strategies tied to high staff COVID-19 vaccination rates.

Investigators surveyed facilities from February through March 2021, asking administrators about the methods used to boost their vaccine coverage.

Three key factors were linked to staff vaccination rates of 75% and higher: designating a frontline staff champion, setting vaccination goals and offering non-monetary incentives such as T-shirts, merchandise or other gifts to vaccinated staff. 

The more strategies in place, the better the vaccination numbers, researcher Sarah D. Berry M.D., MPH, of Harvard University, reported. Facility operators who deployed nine or more strategies tripled their odds of having coverage rates of 75% and higher when compared to nursing homes with less than six strategies in place, for example.

No single strategy will do the trick

With new federal COVID-19 vaccination mandate deadlines now set for Jan. 4, nursing home operators are under increased pressure to encourage hesitant workers to get their shots. The newly published study results may offer some ideas, the investigators said. 

One thing to keep in mind is that the reasons for staff vaccine hesitancy are so varied that no single strategy is likely to increase uptake on its own, Berry wrote. But surveyed facility administrators who acknowledged reasons for hesitancy or refusal among their staff members were more likely to have better vaccination rates, she and her colleagues noted. These leaders may be more engaged with staff and possibly tailored their vaccine-encouragement strategies to address their workers’ concerns, they surmised.

Staff concerns about the vaccines may involve the speed of the vaccines’ development, side effects, and distrust of government and pharmaceutical companies. Levels of distrust may be especially high among historically marginalized groups exposed to medical racism, the authors noted. 

Full findings were published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

The researchers also include Rosa R. Baier MPH, of Brown University, and David Gifford, M.D., MPH, of Brown University and the Center for Health Policy and Evaluation in Long-Term Care, American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living.