Long-term care giant Genesis Healthcare was able to increase COVID-19 vaccination rates among its Hispanic and Black employees by 6.1% and 5.4%, respectively, after shifting its vaccine education strategy to focus on racial disparities among worker uptake. 

Richard Feifer, M.D., MPH

“To build vaccine confidence, nursing home leaders must listen with empathy, be respectful of people’s experiences, answer questions truthfully, maintain transparency, and communicate clearly in order to build trust,” lead author Elizabeth White, Ph.D., Richard Feifer, M.D., and LeShaun Bethea, RN, wrote in a new study detailing Genesis’ success. White is an investigator for Brown University’s School of Public Health, while Feifer is Genesis’ chief medical officer. Bethea was the company’s vice president of reimbursement and legislative affairs and chair of its diversity, equity and inclusion committee and was recently named the new president of the National Center for Assisted Living. 

The vaccination rate increases among the groups were realized during a one-month period between January 29 and March 1 from the company’s first and second vaccination clinics held for staff. 

Genesis, which encompasses 385 nursing homes, noted that after the first clinic, it found significant disparities in staff vaccination rates by race and ethnicity. Vaccination rates were highest among its Asian and white staff at 74.5% and 66.8%, respectively, and lowest among its Hispanic (51.7%) and Black (45.5%) staff. 

The company’s vaccine steering and diversity committees then began working closely with one author to implement multiple inventions to address the disparities. The efforts included facilitating culturally sensitive discussions, increasing availability of multilingual educational materials and holding information sessions at all times of the day and night. 

Vaccine uptake among American Indian and Alaskan Native employees also increased by 8.2%, while rates among white employees increased by 3.5% over the one-month timeframe. 

Study authors noted that a formal pragmatic trial would be needed to determine if the promising trends are directly related to Genesis’ efforts or reflect individuals needing longer to become comfortable with vaccines. 

“Still, these findings support the continuation of targeted educational and engagement efforts to improve vaccine uptake among staff, and the critical need to ensure that nursing homes have ongoing access to vaccine supply to continue their vaccination programs,” White, Feifer and Bethea concluded. 

The full report was published in the Journal of Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine.