Nursing homes work to increase COVID-19 vaccination rates among staff

Coronavirus

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon has raised concerns about nursing home workers choosing not to get their COVID-19 shots. Roughly 50% of staff members in the county are not vaccinated. That’s much lower than the 75% threshold that would provide what is referred to as herd immunity.

Menorah Park in Syracuse is one of the nursing homes that is working to get everyone protected.

It’s been two weeks since Jim Valenson, a maintenance mechanic at the nursing home, received his second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. He’s worked at Menorah Park for more than 30 years.

Dressed in full PPE, Valenson is in constant contact with the residents. For that reason, and to protect himself, he wanted to get the vaccine.

“It’s just reassuring,” said Valenson. “I’m in the patient rooms. When something breaks, I have to go in there.”

After seeing the hesitancy of his coworkers, Valenson is encouraging others to follow suit.

“I say it’s like driving a car. Would you like to drive a car with airbags and seatbelts? You know and that’s like getting the shot. That’s your airbag and seatbelt. It’s going to help protect you if something happens,” explained Valenson.

At least 56% of the staff at Menorah Park have received their shot. Another clinic is being held in February but until then, they are working on educating workers on the vaccine and encourage them to receive it.

“I have not had many conversations with staff who have brought up misinformation or fear or anything like that. These have been specific conversations about having a reaction to the vaccine,” said Molly Lane, Director of Marketing and Communications at Menorah Park.

Nearly all of the residents are fully vaccinated and Lane said nobody has had any serious side effects, only minor reactions like soreness.

Something they hope will prove to others the shot is safe.

“Please get your vaccination. You work in a very vulnerable environment. You know, all those residents… Do it for them. Do it for yourself,” pled Valenson.

Providing an extra layer of protection for staff and residents alike.

The State Department of Health says mandating all long-term facility workers to get the vaccine creates some legal issues since the COVID-19 vaccines have been approved under emergency authorization. Gov. Andrew Cuomo adds that he doesn’t think a mandate will be necessary with so many showing interest in getting vaccinated.

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