COVID-19 vaccination rates among long-term care workers will be the focus on two national studies aimed at decreasing hesitancy about receiving the shots and boosting uptake. 

Dartmouth College and the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute are leading the investigations, which last week were approved for about $11 million in funding by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI). 

The most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that about 59% of staff in nursing homes had completed their COVID-19 vaccinations as of last week.

That’s still well shy of the industry’s goal of getting 75% of staff vaccinated against COVID-19. That target was originally placed on June 30 but has since had to float.

Some groups believe vaccine mandates can help long-term care providers boost uptake among staff, while others have suggested that providers first leverage clinical and community leaders to help with vaccine messaging.

Dartmouth researchers plan to recruit about 1,800 direct care workers nationwide and compare multiple new approaches and current efforts to gauge their effectiveness increasing vaccine uptake among the group. 

The second investigation will recruit 6,000 workers at 30 long-term care facilities in Washington state and Georgia. Staff will be randomly assigned to receive a full intervention, peer-designed educational materials or federal information about the COVID-19 vaccine to determine which method is more effective. 

“Assessing approaches for increasing COVID-19 vaccine confidence among long-term care workers is an urgent need,” Nakela L. Cook, M.D., executive director of PCORI, said in a statement.

“The evidence generated from these studies could help not only with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but with other diseases as well. After all, flu, for example, kills tens of thousands of older adults every year, and greater understanding of the benefits of yearly flu vaccination could reduce deaths from that disease as well,” she added.