As Omicron Spreads, Some Nursing Homes Struggle to Boost Residents

Gov. Kathy Hochul has insisted that nursing homes are equipped to do the job of administering boosters. She has also suggested 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.

“The numbers are not where they should be,” she said on Friday.

The city’s health commissioner, Dave A. Chokshi, said on Dec. 19 that if any nursing homes lacked a pharmacy to administer boosters, the city would deploy vaccination teams. A health department spokesman said Saturday that the city had “arranged vaccination clinics for those that did not have pharmacy partners,” but did not provide any additional details.

Nursing homes have also struggled to vaccinate their staff members. Nursing homes lost more than 4,000 employees after New York’s vaccine mandate went into effect in late September, and many operators fear that requiring boosters will lead to more resignations.

Today, New York is among the lowest-ranked states for getting boosters into the arms of nursing home employees, with just 17 percent of those workers having gotten the shot. That is below the national average of 22 percent, according to the American Health Care Association, which represents 14,000 nursing homes and assisted living communities nationwide.

Industry officials say they are making progress with residents getting booster shots. The Greater New York Health Care Facilities Association, which analyzed state data, found that the more than 1,100 long-term care facilities across the state had held nearly 4,800 booster clinics on site and 619 booster clinics for residents at pharmacies or doctors’ offices as of mid-December.

The organization estimates that about 12 percent of fully vaccinated nursing home residents did not yet qualify for a booster because they had only recently received an earlier dose of the vaccine or monoclonal antibodies. Another 21 percent had either declined a booster or the nursing home had yet to receive consent from relatives.

“It’s an ongoing effort to encourage boosters,” said Stephen Hanse, president of the New York State Health Facilities Association, which represents 350 nursing homes across the state.

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