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Long term care facilities work to ease vaccine hesitancy among staff

Posted at 6:11 PM, Apr 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-12 19:39:19-04

(WXYZ) — As some of the first in line for the vaccine, senior living communities have been full speed ahead getting shots into arms.

“We’ve really worked hard as an organization to establish the importance of it,” said Richard Mabe, regional director of operations for Waltonwood Senior Living, which has multiple locations across metro Detroit.

Waltonwood started vaccinating in January and quickly had 98-100% of their residents fully vaccinated.

“Resident vaccination participation was very high, we were very satisfied and excited about the participation,” Mabe said.

However, the same success wasn’t achieved for employees. They were also offered the vaccine, and only 50- 75% took it.

“I think there’s been a lot of hesitation from folks in the industry,” Mabe said.

Across metro Detroit, long-term care facilities are seeing the same thing.

Statewide, the latest weekly case numbers showed COVID cases among long-term care staff was nearly 5 times higher than the number of cases among residents. During the last surge in December, resident cases were on par with the staff, if not slightly higher.

The State Health Department and the local union don’t have an exact percentage of vaccinated staff, but some union members say vaccinating has been a struggle.

“At first it wasn’t received well," said Mary McClendon, who is a CNA at Ambassador, A Villa Center in Detroit. "Everyone had doubts, included myself.”

After experts were brought in to explain the vaccine to staff, McClendon took it in February. However she estimates only 60% of her coworkers received the vaccine, and the other 40% still won't get it. McClendon says convincing them has been a challenge.

“Very hard, it’s been very hard," McClendon said. "Everyone has their doubts, or you might have a person over here saying 'I'm not going to do it.'”

These facilities say it’s a work in progress. They’re still providing information and resources, and every day more employees are hopping on board as they see others do the same.

“We’ve seen with each clinic, participation increase," Mabe said. "We’re still seeing people come to us after the clinics saying 'where can I get this vaccine?'”

With the push still on, the hope is to get as many employees vaccinated as possible. Protecting themselves, and those in their care.

“The benefits are there, you’re benefiting yourself along with who? Your family, the community, the residents, everyone involved, so please do it,” McClendon said.