COVID-19 has devastated nursing homes across the United States, with more than 186,000 residents and employees killed by the virus in the past year and a half.
However, despite the availability of a coronavirus vaccine, more than 15% of nursing home residents and more than 30% of employees across the country remained unvaccinated at the end of last month.
Now, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has designed a tool to help families view and compare recent vaccination rates in nursing homes.
“As we continue to work with our partners to monitor the spread of COVID-19 and keep nursing home residents safe, we want to give people a new tool to visualize this data to help them make informed decisions,” CMS Director Chiquita Brooks-LaSure said in a statement Tuesday.
Families can find the tool at Medicare.gov. There, they can search for hospice care providers in a specific area. Then, they can either view vaccination data for a specific facility or click “Compare” to view side-by-side reports of vaccination rates at multiple nursing homes. They will have to scroll down past the facilities overview to find vaccination rates.
CMS already had that data available on the site — Medicare and Medicaid-approved nursing homes have been reporting the data since May — but the new tool makes accessing the information simpler.
With a population particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus, common sense suggests that nursing homes will mandate vaccinations for both residents and employees, but that’s not quite the case yet.
Last month, President Biden announced that his administration would require that all nursing home workers be vaccinated. CMS has tasked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with writing a rule that is expected to be disclosed soon, according to the Associated Press.
Meanwhile, a large percentage of the nation’s nursing home employees are not immune.
AARP is following the issue closely on the Public Policy Institute’s COVID-19 dashboard, and recently noted a worrying trend in nursing homes. The organization noted last week that COVID-19 cases and deaths in August were “six times higher than in the four weeks ending in mid-July”.
Residents of unvaccinated nursing homes now face the same risks they did a year ago, said Nancy LeMonde, AARP executive vice president and chief advocacy and co-author on the statement.
Both AARP and CMS urged nursing home employees and residents to receive the vaccination as soon as possible, adding that the vaccine is safe and effective, as well as free.
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