Vaccine hesitancy is persisting among long-term care workers in Moore County.
Less than 40 percent of staff members at most of the area’s nursing homes and assisted living facilities had been vaccinated against COVID-19 as of July 1, according to data presented Monday to the Moore County Board of Health. At three of the county’s 14 largest facilities, only a quarter of employees were vaccinated.
Vaccination clinics have been held at every nursing home and assisted living community in the area, and long-term care workers were among the first people eligible for shots when the vaccine was in short supply in December.
The workers were prioritized to help protect elderly residents of long-term care facilities, a vulnerable population that has been ravaged by the coronavirus. Outbreaks in long-term care settings account for about 54 percent of all fatal infections recorded in Moore County since the start of the pandemic.
While nearly all of those deaths involved residents, a Pilot analysis shows that at least two long-term care employees died of COVID-19. An additional 360 staff members tested positive during the outbreaks, with some of the workers requiring hospitalization.
There are currently no active outbreaks in Moore County, and the data shared by the health department on Monday noted that all “consenting residents” of local nursing homes have been vaccinated. Matt Garner, public information officer for the health department, acknowledged that some long-term care workers may not feel the need to get vaccinated because they already had COVID-19.
“It is possible that may be a factor,” Garner wrote in an email to The Pilot. “It’s certainly true that during the pandemic a portion our long-term care workforce may have had the virus and recovered. In much the same way as in other sectors of our community, this could be one of several motives in play for not being vaccinated.”
People who previously had COVID-19 should still get vaccinated, according to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Experts do not yet know how long you are protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19,” the agency said. “Even if you have already recovered from COVID-19, it is possible — although rare — that you could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 again.”
There is also the threat of the hyper-contagious delta variant, which has caused infections to surge across Europe. Individuals who developed antibodies through a prior infection may not be fully protected against the variant, and the strand’s transmissibility makes it especially risky for people who work or live in congregate settings like nursing homes.
“We know that the unvaccinated are at the highest risk, and we also know that the vaccine is effective against the delta variant and other variants,” Garner said during Monday’s meeting of the health board. “The most important thing you can do to protect yourself against the delta variant is to get fully vaccinated.”
Three facilities are currently tied for the lowest percentage of inoculated employees: The Coventry, Magnolia Gardens and Fox Hollow Senior Living. Only 25 percent of staff members at each facility are vaccinated, the same number reported in March.
A total of 45,940 local residents, or about 46 percent of the county’s population, were fully vaccinated as of Tuesday, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. About 1.900 residents are currently waiting to receive their second dose of the two-shot vaccine.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article had a misspelled word in the headline.