Nearly half of New York’s nursing home workers haven’t gotten the COVID-19 vaccine — so the state Department of Health is now putting more pressure on the facilities to bridge the gap, The Post has learned.
Health department brass issued new guidance late Thursday that requires nursing homes to offer “an opportunity to receive” the jab to all consenting residents and staff by April 29 and within two weeks of a new hire or a new admission, records obtained by The Post show.
Both staff and residents who opt out will need to sign paperwork acknowledging that they are declining. Facilities that don’t comply with the new rules may be penalized up to $2,000 per violation, the DOH said.
“They’re trying to get people vaccinated and they’re trying to incentivize it,” said Michael Balboni, the Executive Director of Greater New York Health Care Facilities Association, said of the new requirement.
Only 60 percent of workers in the facilities statewide have gotten the shot since December — and just 56 percent of staff in the five boroughs have received the vaccine, the latest DOH vaccination numbers show.
By comparison, 80 percent of nursing home residents statewide have been vaccinated and 73 percent in the city have gotten the jab.
“The residents aren’t the problem, it’s really the low vaccination rates with the staff. There are healthcare workers who are afraid to take the vaccine, period. How do you convince them that this is in the best interest for themselves and their families? It’s something that everybody is still trying to figure out,” Balboni said.
A DOH spokesperson said that the “emergency” regulations were necessary in order to ensure no vaccines are going to waste and anyone who wants to get vaccinated is easily able to.
“Inexplicably, numerous nursing homes are letting vaccine doses sit on shelves, and that’s why DOH recently enacted emergency regulations requiring nursing homes to offer all consenting, unvaccinated, existing and new personnel and residents an opportunity to get vaccinated,” the spokesperson wrote in a statement.
One nursing home official claimed the guidelines were released without enough consultation — and argued they don’t take into account challenges facilities will face adhering to the rules.
“The problem is, nursing homes are having a hard time getting the vaccine,” the source said.
The source said the 14-day rule will be difficult to abide by because nursing homes will be reliant on pharmacies, counties and other entities to make the doses available. It is also challenging for the facilities to access smaller quantities of the vaccine, which could lead to waste, they noted.
The source said the recent exodus of DOH staffers has compounded the problem and a lot of the state’s best health experts have left.