The Phoenix Flyer

AARP urges Florida’s nursing homes to require COVID vaccines for staff, residents

By: - August 18, 2021 3:15 pm

Credit: Katarzyna Bialasiewicz/Getty Images

With vaccination rates abysmal among staff at nursing homes and COVID-19 cases on the rise at the facilities, the AARP is calling for vaccine mandates for everyone living or working inside the homes.

Florida ranks second worst in the nation in its vaccine rate for staff, according to a report by the seniors-advocacy group. The report, dated July 18, says that only 45.1 percent of staff at Florida’s nursing homes are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

The AARP Public Policy Institute, collaborating with the Scripps Gerontology Center at Ohio’s Miami University, created a dashboard for tracking data related to COVID at nursing homes in four-week snapshots. The “AARP Nursing Home COVID-19 Dashboard” includes information about vaccination rates, deaths, case numbers, and more.

In a written statement, AARP Florida State Director Jeff Johnson on Wednesday urged nursing homes across the state “to act immediately to ensure that vaccination requirements are in place for staff and residents of every facility, including requiring vaccines for newly-admitted residents.”

“These facilities cannot let preventable problems be repeated. The low levels of staff vaccination create an unacceptable level of risk, since the disease spreads so easily in these environments,” Johnson said.

“More than 11,500 people have already died in Florida’s long-term care system since the start of the pandemic, roughly 31 percent of the state’s total fatalities.”

Meanwhile, COVID-19 cases among staff at Florida nursing homes has increased, from 26 percent to 40 percent, as of July 18.

Only 72 percent of nursing home residents in Florida have completed a vaccine regimen, the third-worst rate in the country after Arizona, at 64.4 percent.

Overall, Hawaii has seen the highest vaccine rate for nursing home staff, at 87 percent. Southern states tend to have low vaccination rates — including Louisiana, with the lowest rate in the nation at 44 percent fully vaccinated.

Other states with low vaccine rates for staff include Missouri (46.8 percent); Mississippi (47.7 percent); Georgia (48.3 percent), and Oklahoma (48.8 percent).

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Issac Morgan
Issac Morgan

Issac Morgan is a 2009 graduate of Florida A&M University's School of Journalism, and a proud native of Tallahassee. He has covered city council and community events at the Gadsden County Times, worked as a sports news assistant at the Tallahassee Democrat, a communications specialist for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and as a proofreader at the Florida Law Weekly.