Nursing home residents and staff should be required to receive COVID-19 booster shots to help stem a torrent of cases and deaths due to the omicron variant, the AARP urged facility operators Thursday.
Early January’s steep spike in COVID-19 infections has led to an unprecedented number of cases among both residents and staff, according to data from the AARP Nursing Home COVID-19 Dashboard. And although resident death rates are much lower than at the same time last year, they have doubled over the last two weeks.
Meanwhile, half of residents and about 80% of staff have yet to receive a protective booster shot, according to the AARP Public Policy Institute leaders. Nursing home residents were among the first to be fully vaccinated last year, and the protection from those long-ago shots is weakening, they said.
“The message from recent data is clear: Nursing home residents and staff need booster shots now,” the institute’s Susan C. Reinhard, RN, Ph.D., and Ari Houser wrote in a Thursday blog post.
“While being fully vaccinated without a booster still provides protection against severe illness and death, it is no longer adequate for nursing home residents; a booster is necessary to remain protected,” they said. “The time is now to get shots in arms.”
The rate of new infections is 90% lower in residents who have received a booster dose when compared to their peers who are either not fully vaccinated, or who are vaccinated but haven’t yet gotten a booster shot, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s early 2022 data.
Rates of vaccination vary greatly between states, Reinhard and Houser also noted. This complicates the issue and should put local leadership on notice, they said.
“The rate of staff booster uptake ranged from a low of 11% in Indiana to a high of 42% in Hawaii,” they reported. “Especially where vaccination and booster uptake are lagging, states must tackle this matter with urgency. Anyone working or living in a nursing home who is eligible for a booster but has not had one should do so as soon as possible.”