The Reservoir nursing home in West Hartford was among the first long-term care facilities in Connecticut to begin vaccinating its residents against coronavirus. AP Photo
The Reservoir nursing home in West Hartford was among the first long-term care facilities in Connecticut to begin vaccinating its residents against coronavirus.  AP Photo

More than 110,000 doses of COVID vaccine have been administered in the state’s long-term care facilities since late December, and state official estimate they are about two-thirds of the way to completing vaccinations of those residents.

Data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week show that 110,016 vaccines have been administered through the long-term care facility partnership through which CVS and Walgreens pharmacists have vaccinated residents staff at nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Connecticut.

First doses accounted for 70,237, and around half of those who received a first dose have received their second. The CDC data doesn’t differentiate between nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

State officials have not released detailed data on vaccinations of people in long-term facilities other than to say they believe 90% of the residents have gotten at least a first dose and about 60% of the staff have been vaccinated.

DPH spokeswoman Maura Fitzgerald said it’s “difficult to calculate vaccination rates among staff or residents in long-term care facilities” because the numbers fluctuate daily – particularly in facilities with short-term rehabilitation wings with constant turnover.

She said the state doesn’t have the exact number of staff that work in each long-term care facility, doesn’t have the exact number of residents in residential care homes on any given day and that a constant influx of unvaccinated residents will bring down vaccination rates.

Fitzgerald said that at the beginning of this week, almost all nursing home residents have had at least one dose of vaccine. Around 70% of residents have received their second doses.

As for nursing home staff, DPH estimates over 70% of staff have received at least one dose, and over 50% of staff have received two doses.

In assisted living facilities, “almost all residents have received at least one dose of vaccine,” Fitzgerald said. With assisted living staff, “over 50% have received at least one dose of vaccination, and second-dose clinics also are ongoing.”

The vaccination of long-term residents started in December and is winding down, at least in Connecticut, with most facilities expected to finish three rounds of vaccines by the end of this month.

In Connecticut, there are about 17,000 nursing home residents and about 25,000 staff, who were among the first in the state to be vaccinated.

The numbers are less definitive in assisted living facilities, which do not face the same scrutiny that nursing homes do from the state Department of Public Health.

The state emphasized vaccinating the nursing home residents because of the devastating impact the virus has had on that population, with 3,873 deaths since March. There have been 471 deaths in assisted living facilities, bringing the total of COVID deaths in long-term care facilities to 4,361 as of Feb. 9.

More staff vaccinations 

Last week, the state DPH announced that it would allow nursing home workers to get their first vaccine during the third round of vaccinations at their facilities — as long as they made arrangements on their own to get the second shot a month later.

Several providers contacted Thursday said that the extra opportunity to get the shot has led to an increase in staff vaccinations.

David Skoczulek, Vice President of Business Development for iCare Health Network, said two of its facilities now have more than 75 percent of their staff vaccinated. All of iCare’s facilities have finished their third round of shots, and he estimates as many as 50 staff members got their first dose of vaccine this time around.

“It behooves the staff to get vaccinated beyond just the safety of themselves, their families and the residents,” Skoczulek said. “As time goes on, it will mean more freedom of movement and unit assignment, less testing and, hopefully one day, less use of PPE.”

State officials were concerned because the initial response to the vaccination among nursing home staff was tepid. In some cases, less than 40 percent of employees got vaccinated in the first round, but numbers have increased as others have seen that the vaccine didn’t affect their co-workers.

Mag Morelli, president of LeadingAge Connecticut, which represents about 40 non-profit assisted living facilities, said the participation in those facilities has been at about the same levels as nursing homes.

“The residents are getting vaccinated — they have been waiting for it,” Morelli said.

Morelli said she believes the timing of the vaccine rollout had some effect on staff participation, because nursing home residents were the first people to get vaccinated — many right before the holidays.

“They started really early, and you could see people wanted to wait,” Morelli said. “But we really have seen an uptick recently in staff [vaccinations] as well.”

COVID numbers going down

The large-scale vaccinations of nursing home residents has led to a marked decrease in the number of infections in the facilities — and lately a decrease in deaths as well.

For the week of Feb. 3-9 there were only 52 new infections and 17 deaths — the lowest total of deaths in at least a month. Last week, there were 101 new infections among nursing residents and 35 deaths.

The previous week, the state recorded 166 new cases and 66 deaths among nursing home residents. When vaccinations started in late December, the state was averaging over 100 deaths a week.

Cases also have been decreasing among nursing home staff. There were 57 new infections among staff, down from 87  last week and 153 the previous week.

Dave does in-depth investigative reporting for CT Mirror. His work focuses on government accountability including financial oversight, abuse of power, corruption, safety monitoring, and compliance with law. Before joining CT Mirror Altimari spent 23 years at the Hartford Courant breaking some of the state’s biggest, most impactful investigative stories.

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