Boosters offered to residents of West Virginia nursing homes
COVID-19 booster injections are now widely available to residents of nursing homes across the state who have received the Pfizer vaccine.
State officials say they are directing third doses to West Virginia’s most vulnerable residents.
Retired Major General Jim Hoyer, who heads vaccine distribution in the state, said all eligible nursing home residents will have a chance to receive a booster by the end of next week. As recently as last week, federal health agencies authorized boosters for a larger group of people.
Those who have received the Johnson & Johnson or Moderna vaccines will have to wait for more federal guidance.
“No one was allowed to mix,” said Marty Wright, CEO of the West Virginia Health Care Association, which represents 120 long-term care facilities serving about 14,000 residents.
State officials say 87% of all nursing home residents are vaccinated.
The elderly and those with other health conditions are eligible and encouraged to receive an additional injection, as they constitute the majority of hospitalized breakthrough cases.
“Our breakthrough 20% hospital cases are mostly older and more vulnerable citizens with health issues,” Hoyer said.
At some point last month, more than 50 percent breakthrough cases in West Virginia were among residents of nursing homes.
Despite this, nursing home executives say vaccines work for their residents.
“When we do facility-wide testing, we find a lot of these new asymptomatic positive individuals,” Wright said.
While a majority of long-term care facilities currently have at least one staff member or resident with COVID-19, Wright says the virus is not ravaging these homes as it once did.
“We are seeing very low and minimal hospitalization and very few serious complications, a very different scenario than what we saw in the winter before the vaccine became available,” Wright said.
The Biden administration has said it will issue a rule requiring nursing home workers to be vaccinated. State officials say 70% of nursing home staff in West Virginia have been vaccinated.
Wright said that number continues to rise, but depending on the appearance of the federal rule, it could have an impact on staffing.
“We definitely have staff shortages and challenges, and so do our hospitals. Depending on what comes next with the federal rule, that could easily impact it as well, ”Wright said.