March 5, 2021

More than 2/3 of Indiana nursing home staff would take COVID-19 vaccine

Nurse holding older person's hand.

Educating staff is crucial for increasing uptake and achieving desired results

In a study conducted shortly before COVID-19 vaccines became available in the U.S., more than two-thirds of nursing home and assisted living staff in Indiana indicated willingness to receive a vaccine immediately or in the future. The study was led by researchers from Regenstrief Institute, Indiana University and the State of Indiana. Vaccine uptake by front-line staff is important because it will help protect against serious illness and death for the high-risk people who receive care in these facilities.

“The vaccines offer the opportunity to return to a more normal life within the nursing facility, but that cannot be achieved without staff being willing to take the vaccine,” said study leader Kathleen Unroe, M.D., MHA, a Regenstrief research scientist, IU School of Medicine associate professor of medicine and a geriatrician. “The rates of willingness found in this survey are a positive sign, and more staff may be amenable to the vaccines if they receive more education and outreach.”

Nursing home and assisted living facility staff were included in the first phase of vaccine distribution, so the Indiana State Department of Health sent an anonymous survey to staff in facilities across the state to gain an understanding of willingness to participate. More than 8,000 responded. 45 percent indicated they would be willing to take a vaccine as soon as it was available, and an additional 24 percent said they would take it at some point in the future.

Staff members were surveyed on their reasons for not wanting to receive a vaccine. The most common responses were:

  • Concern over side effects (70%)
  • Health concerns (34%)
  • Questions about effectiveness (20%)
  • Religious reasons (12%)

“We found significant differences in willingness to take a vaccine among staff sub-groups, for example older employees were more interested in getting it as soon as possible, whereas direct care clinical staff who deal directly with patients were less likely to report willingness to receive the vaccine in the first wave,” said Justin Blackburn, PhD, associate professor at Indiana University Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI. “This information can help public health and facility leaders identify which groups may need education and outreach about the vaccines so that these efforts can successfully protect residents.” Dr. Blackburn is also a program faculty with the Indiana University National Library of Medicine Public Health Informatics T15 program hosted by Regenstrief Institute and Fairbanks School of Public Health.

Willingness of long-term care staff to receive a COVID-19 vaccine: A single state survey” has been published online ahead of print in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

In addition to Dr. Unroe and Dr. Blackburn, other authors of the paper are Russell Evans, R.N., MHA of Indiana University Health; Lindsay Weaver, M.D. of the Indiana State Department of Health and Dan Rusyniak, M.D. of the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration.

About Regenstrief Institute

Founded in 1969 in Indianapolis, the Regenstrief Institute is a local, national and global leader dedicated to a world where better information empowers people to end disease and realize true health. A key research partner to Indiana University, Regenstrief and its research scientists are responsible for a growing number of major healthcare innovations and studies. Examples range from the development of global health information technology standards that enable the use and interoperability of electronic health records to improving patient-physician communications, to creating models of care that inform practice and improve the lives of patients around the globe.

Sam Regenstrief, a nationally successful entrepreneur from Connersville, Indiana, founded the institute with the goal of making healthcare more efficient and accessible for everyone. His vision continues to guide the institute’s research mission.

About IU School of Medicine

IU School of Medicine is the largest medical school in the U.S. and is annually ranked among the top medical schools in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. The school offers high-quality medical education, access to leading medical research and rich campus life in nine Indiana cities, including rural and urban locations consistently recognized for livability.

About the Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI

Located on Indiana’s premier research and health sciences campus, the Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI is committed to advancing the public’s health and well-being through education, innovation and leadership. The Fairbanks School of Public Health is known for its expertise in biostatistics, epidemiology, cancer research, community health, environmental public health, global health, health policy and health services administration.

Kathleen Unroe, M.D., MHA

In addition to being a research scientist at Regenstrief Institute, Kathleen Unroe, M.D., MHA, is an associate professor at Indiana University School of Medicine and a practicing geriatrician.

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