Covid-19 deaths in nursing homes have dropped dramatically but more work needs to be done, four Democratic Senators led by Senate Aging Committee Chair Bob Casey of Pennsylvania are warning.
The deaths have dropped from more than 5,600 weekly from Thanksgiving 2020 to the first week of January 2021 to 425 per week for the six weeks ending December 5 this year, the Senators noted in a letter to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra dated Wednesday.
Despite that success as vaccinations have increased, Casey along with Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden of Oregon, Colorado Senator Michael Bennet and Arizona Senator Mark Kelly told the HHS head they are concerned just 55 percent of fully vaccinated nursing home residents have received primary or booster doses of Covid-19 vaccine while fully vaccinated nursing home worker use of the vaccines has been less than half at 23 percent.
Additionally, they called for racially disparities in vaccination rates to be continued to be addressed.
“Research has shown that people of color are more likely to live in nursing homes with low vaccination rates, while Black and Hispanic people in the general population make up a disproportionately small share of booster dose recipients,” Aging Committee Chair Casey and his Democratic colleagues wrote.
The Senators said they want assurances the Biden Administration is doing everything in its power to provide nursing homes ready access to the vaccines as omicron appears to be more transmissible than the highly contagious delta variant.
They asked Secretary Becerra for the Biden Administration’s goas and timelines for rates primary and booster doses of the Covid-19 vaccines among nursing home residents and workers in the coming year and how is the Administration seeking to increase vaccination rates in nursing homes in rural areas where the uptake is low.
Additionally, the Senators told the HHS chief to provide information about supply chain issues, staffing shortages or other obstacles in having nursing homes obtain or administer additional primary or booster doses.