Monday, June 24, 2024

Only one of Cambridge’s three nursing homes, Sancta Maria, has submitted a required breakdown of vaccinations by worker category to the CDC. (Photo: Marc Levy)

More than 80 percent of workers at nursing homes in Cambridge are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, according to government filings by the nursing homes. That ranks them high among their peers, yet there is little data breaking down vaccination rates by job category that would show how many employees who have the most contact with residents are immunized.

Nursing home residents have suffered the most deaths from Covid-19 in Cambridge and make up a large proportion of deaths from the virus nationwide. The residents are especially vulnerable to Covid-19 because of their age and poor health and were given top priority for vaccination – though not all have accepted the vaccine.

As more and more people overall have been vaccinated, the number of new cases in nursing homes and the community has dropped to a trickle or nothing. In Cambridge, there have been no new nursing home cases for months, and zero new infections in the community for the past three days. Still, vaccination of nursing home workers remains important, as illustrated by a Kentucky nursing home where an unvaccinated employee caused an outbreak that infected 26 residents and 20 workers in March, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported. More alarming, 18 of the residents and four employees had been fully vaccinated, the CDC found.

Only one of Cambridge’s three nursing homes, Sancta Maria Nursing Facility, has submitted the required breakdown of job categories to the CDC since that agency started mandating weekly staff vaccination reports last month. The figures from Sancta Maria showed wide variation, with 84 percent of all staff fully vaccinated while a much lower proportion of aides, assistants and technicians – 66 percent – were fully immunized. The aides, assistants and technicians make up the largest job category and aides and assistants provide the most hands-on care.

According to Sancta Maria’s report, all of the staff members who were not fully vaccinated had been offered the shots and declined them; none had a medical condition that would prevent them from getting the vaccine. Sancta Maria has not had a staff member test positive for Covid-19 since January, when three workers were infected over three weeks, according to the CDC reports.

Neville Center reported that 89 percent of its staff were fully vaccinated, and Cambridge Rehabilitation & Nursing Center, 81 percent. Neither facility disclosed vaccination rates by job category or reported how many workers had been offered vaccination and declined. The vaccination figures cover staff who were eligible to work at the facility for at least one day in the week that ended June 6.

The nursing homes’ reports showed higher vaccination rates among residents, but they were not 100 percent, and some refused the vaccine. At Cambridge Rehabilitation & Nursing Center, 61 of 68 residents were fully immunized, and one had received a first shot; three had declined the vaccine. The figures at Neville Center were 96 of 101 residents fully vaccinated for the week that ended May 30, and Sancta Maria Nursing Facility reported 125 of 130 in the same week.  Neville didn’t report how many residents refused a shot, and Sancta Maria said it did not know the vaccination status of five residents. Both facilities didn’t file figures on resident vaccination status for the week ending June 6, the most recent CDC reporting period.

Health care and government workers

As for other health care workers in Cambridge, 76 percent of staff at Cambridge Health Alliance, or 4,314 people, are fully vaccinated and 81 percent, or 4,615, have received at least one dose, spokesman David Cecere said. Terri Janos, a spokeswoman for Mount Auburn Hospital, said “about 80 percent of our employees have been vaccinated through our vaccination clinics” and the hospital estimates that with workers getting shots elsewhere, 85 percent are fully protected. Hospital workers were among the first to get priority for vaccination, in December.

Cecere said CHA does not have a report that breaks down vaccinations by staff category, and Janos didn’t answer the question about job types. According to the Massachusetts Hospital and Healthcare Association, no Massachusetts hospital now requires staff to be vaccinated; individual facilities are evaluating what vaccination policies would work for them.

MHA members have reported staff vaccination rates from the 70s to 90s percent range, according to the association.

The city of Cambridge, which has not yet fully reopened government offices and other sites to the public – to protect staff and residents, officials have said – does not track vaccination of its employees “because vaccinations are not mandatory,” spokesman Lee Gianetti said. “We do strongly encourage all employees to get vaccinated and have offered vaccination clinics to employees over the past month.”

Vaccinations among residents

Finally, 64 percent of Cambridge residents were fully immunized and 71 percent had received at least one shot as of Tuesday, the state health department’s most recent vaccination report said. The pace of vaccination has slowed in Cambridge and elsewhere, with just 1,652 additional residents becoming fully vaccinated over the past week, or an average of 236 people a day.

Youths from 16 to 19 years old continued to lag behind other age groups in the percentage with at least one shot and fully vaccinated. The Cambridge Public Health Department identified lower vaccination rates in that group as a concern last week and said the department would start “additional outreach” to the older teens.

The latest state figures showed that the number with at least one shot inched up to 49 percent Tuesday from 48 percent as of June 8, while the proportion fully vaccinated moved to 41 percent from 39 percent. Looking at numbers rather than percentages, 58 more older teens got at least one shot during the week, while an additional 120 became fully vaccinated. The category of people with at least one shot can include those who are fully vaccinated.