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Many reasons for COVID vaccine hesitancy among LTC staff

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While more than 1,000 local health-care workers have been vaccinated against COVID-19, hundreds more have turned down the shot when offered.

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Statistics provided by local long-term care homes show that, at some facilities, fewer than 60 per cent of front-line workers have been vaccinated.

“These are individuals tasked with the care of some of our community’s most vulnerable and throughout this pandemic they have done a remarkable job of that,” said Dr. Elizabeth Urbantke, Brant’s acting medical officer of health.

Urbantke declined to comment on why health-care workers are turning down the chance to get a shot, but noted: “It would be in these individuals’ best interest to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.”

Workers cannot be forced to take a vaccine.

And the reasons for not getting a COVID shot are many, according to Sharleen Stewart, president of SEIU Healthcare, a union representing more than 60,000 front-line workers in Canada and many in Brantford and Brant.

She said workers may have missed in-house clinics or are on leave or vacation. Some may have been advised against the vaccine due to health issues or pregnancy. And those from an ethnic background may not have been provided information in a language they could easily understand.

“We will always have hesitancy,” said Stewart. “People are on different shifts with different communication systems and cultures.

“Over the last year, trust in the government isn’t at a very high level.”

She said a major issue is that workers know there’s a possibility a person may feel sick for a day or two after getting a shot.

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“For these workers to lose two days of pay affects whether or not they can pay the mortgage or rent. Some had been working three jobs to pay their bills and now are restricted to only one job so they can’t afford to lose any time.”

The local long-term care home with the highest vaccination rate is Hardy Terrace in Mount Pleasant, with 88 per cent of staff vaccinated. The home also has 92 per cent of its residents vaccinated.

“We’re grateful to our staff, residents and families for their ongoing commitment to maintain the well-being of our home,” said administrator Stephanie Galambos.

“Vaccines are effective in the fight against COVID-19.”

The Brant Community Healthcare System, which operates Brantford General Hospital and the Willett urgent-care centre in Paris, also has a high rate at 86 per cent of workers vaccinated, according to spokesperson Alena Lukich.

“All active BCHS staff have been offered the first dose of the vaccine,” said Lukich, adding that the vaccine “plays a critical role in helping us to reduce the risk of spreading the virus in our region, protect our hospital services and work towards ending this pandemic.”

Of the 71 staff members at Iroquois Lodge, the long-term care home on Six Nations of the Grand River,  73 per cent have had their first shot and 64 per cent have completed a second dose, said administrator Andy Joseph.

Joseph said several agencies partnered to get the vaccines to employees and he thanked all who have participated in getting their shots.

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He said all staff got printed information about the vaccines and were offered a link to watch a webinar from the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario.

At the municipally owned John Noble Home in Brantford, 66 per cent of workers have been vaccinated but that number is still growing, said administrator Jennifer Miller.

“The home is promoting vaccine uptake through education and awareness and is seeing an increase in the numbers of staff signing up for the vaccine,” she said.

At St. Joseph’s Lifecare Centre in Brantford, the largest local long-term care facility, all workers have had a chance to get a first dose of the vaccine and all residents, except for a few newcomers, have been vaccinated. The vaccination rate among staff is about 60 per cent and the home currently has COVID outbreak with five staff confirmed with the virus, according to Brant County Health Unit.

“(We) continue to provide staff with information to encourage vaccine confidence for those who have not yet been vaccinated,” said administrator David Wormald in an email.

At Park Lane Terrace in Paris, about 60 per cent of staff have completed both doses of the vaccine but that number could be higher since staff book their own appointments and may not have yet reported their shots, said Mary Raithby, CEO of APANS, the company that manages the long-term care home.

“Our staff are very committed to doing everything they can to keep our residents safe and vaccinations are a very important step,” said Raithby, noting that vaccine supply is an ongoing issue that can have an impact on staff getting their shots.

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“Our staff have been very receptive to the vaccine and are booking appointments as much as they can.”

At Fox Ridge Community Care in Brantford, about 57 per cent of the staff has received at least the first vaccine.

Nadia Daniell-Colarossi, a spokesperson for Sienna Senior Living, which owns the home, said administration is running an extensive vaccination campaign at all of its homes, including virtual town halls with medical experts to help answer vaccine questions.

The director of communication for Revera, which owns Telfer Place in Paris, declined to be specific about the vaccination rate at the home, saying it is “in line with Revera’s national average of more than half” of employees vaccinated.

But Larry Roberts said that number is climbing.

He said the home appreciates the initiative of the health unit to hold vaccination clinics on-site.

“Revera compensates workers for visits to offsite vaccine clinics, but we believe (holding clinics at the homes) encourages vaccinations in situation where travel or other issues might delay people.

Brierwood Gardens, on Park Road North, which is also owned by Revera, did not respond to requests for vaccination rate information.

SGamble@postmedia.com

@EXPSGamble

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