A new investigation by the New York Times examines whether New York’s nursing homes are doing enough to provide their residents with Covid-19 vaccine boosters as the omicron variant surges throughout the state. State data cited by the Times shows that booster efforts are lagging. At Sea Crest Nursing and Rehabilitation in Brooklyn, for instance, only 52 of 274 residents have received the booster shot, even though “more than 100 residents” at the facility have died of Covid-19 in the last two years.
The Times attributes struggle to administer boosters to a few factors, such as vaccine hesitancy and the fact that some residents have only recently received their second vaccine dose or monoclonal antibody treatments. Another cause suggested by health experts is that New York “was slow to push boosters before the new variant arrived a few weeks ago, and has largely left administering third doses to the long-term care facilities themselves.”
The omicron variant is surging in New York, with 49,708 new cases reported on Christmas Eve and 36,454 reported on Christmas (when many testing sites were shut down). Experts cited by the Times have stressed the importance of administering boosters to nursing home residents, who “have had a significantly higher risk of dying” of Covid-19 and whose vaccine-caused immunity may be diminishing. Studies also suggest that booster shots are a substantial line of defense against the omicron variant.
Roughly 56% of nursing home residents in New York City have received the booster, per the Times, which is higher than the national booster rate for nursing homes. Still, there are “more than 19,000 residents” in New York City who have yet to receive it, and there are nursing homes where “less than half of the residents” and even “less than a quarter of residents” haven’t yet received it. Experts predict that booster administration shortfalls may have tragic consequences in nursing homes, with one public health professor telling the Times: “It would be very surprising if we did not see excess mortality in the long-term care, institutionalized population that was not boosted.”
New York Governor Kathy Hochul said last week that “The numbers are not where they should be” with respect to vaccine booster efforts in nursing homes. According to the Times, she argued that “the problem lies not with the nursing homes, but with resistant family members or residents who are unable to provide consent because of cognitive decline.” Vaccination rates are also lagging among nursing home employees, with more than 4,000 staffers leaving their facilities after New York implemented vaccine mandates in September Data cited by the Times shows that only 17% of New York nursing home employees have received the vaccine booster, and “many operators fear that requiring boosters will lead to more resignations.”
More information on the concerns surrounding vaccine booster administration in nursing homes is available via the New York Times.
The attorneys at the Law Offices of Thomas L. Gallivan, PLLC work diligently to protect the rights of nursing home residents. Please contact us to discuss in the event you have a potential case involving neglect or abuse.