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Health care official: Get more vaccines to those in nursing homes

Statewide, people are lining up for their COVID-19 vaccines, but are enough people doing it in nursing homes? Newswatch 16's Sarah Buynovsky has the story.
Credit: StoryBlocks

SCRANTON, Pa. — Statewide, people are lining up for their COVID-19 vaccines, but are enough people doing it in nursing homes?

Health care officials statewide said the key is protecting those who are most vulnerable right now.

“Long-term care is at the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic and we have from day one called for prioritization of our long-term care providers, workers, and residence," said Zachary Shamberg, president and CEO of Pennsylvania Health Care Association.

He has been briefing lawmakers in Harrisburg about what is happening around the state and asking for more help.

A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that nationwide, about 80 percent of those living in nursing homes have agreed to be vaccinated but less than 40 percent of workers in those facilities agreed.

Shamberg said those numbers are not so low in Pennsylvania.

“We’re seeing around a 50 percent, 55 percent acceptance rate for all staff and residents are around 85 to 90 percent. So that’s a really good step in the right direction. What we’re also seeing is that there are three vaccine clinics for long-term care and the numbers are going up very high for the second round."

When it comes to northeastern and central Pennsylvania, Shamberg said there are still outbreaks of COVID-19 at long-term care facilities and more needs to be done to stop that.

“We’re still seeing case counts, still seeing staff and residents contract the virus. That includes northeast Pennsylvania. Our call is to get long-term care the support they need today. We’ve been calling for it for the last 11 months."

Shamberg said he and others are continuing to watch the trends and hoping the governor and lawmakers respond to the calls for help: more funding, more protective equipment, and more vaccines.

He said Pennsylvania is the third oldest state in the country, with the fastest-growing population being those 85 and older.