Ohio’s nursing home residents and workers are among the first in the state to be offered the new COVID-19 vaccines. Most residents are taking it, but Gov. Mike DeWine says as many as 60% of nursing home employees are opting out.
At a coronavirus briefing Wednesday, DeWine said the state's vaccine rollout was not happening fast enough, and said it was a "missed opportunity" that so many nursing home employees refused to get the shot.
Ohio began offering the vaccine to nursing homes in mid-December. Ohio Health Care Association executive director Pete Van Runkle blamed misinformation as the reason why many workers declined the vaccine.
“They see on social media that the government is putting microchips in you or the government is putting a vaccine out there that hasn’t been properly studied," Van Runkle says.
Ohio’s nursing homes could require workers to get vaccinated, but Van Runkle says most probably won’t because they are already short-staffed. He expects many workers who declined the vaccine offered at the first clinic will get it the second time around after seeing others who received it are faring well.
However, DeWine says those nursing home workers who don't get the shots soon might have to wait many more months to do so.
“We’re not going to make them take it,” DeWine said. “Our message today is: The train may not be coming back for a while.”
Nursing homes and long-term care facilities have accounted for over half of the COVID-19 deaths in Ohio, with 4,487 reported since April 15.
Critics say that DeWine and the Trump Administration have mishandled the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. Ohio House Democratic Leader Emilia Sykes says Republican leadership have failed to create an effective distribution infrastructure, and have pushed the process through underfunded local health departments.
"Pushing this process through the same underfunded and ignored public health infrastructure system is unsurprisingly running into the same issues that we saw with testing," Sykes said in a written statement. "The vaccines are coming in, but overwhelmed and underfunded local health departments and hospital systems simply don’t have the capacity to test, treat, trace, and vaccinate."